Opinion | University of Iowa needs to give more attention to suicide prevention

While spreading awareness is a noble goal, the university should do more to provide students with the tools necessary to prevent suicidal tendencies.

Hannah Pinski, Opinions Columnist

National Suicide Prevention week occurred from Sept. 6-12. While the University of Iowa advocated to seek help, check up on friends, and advertised their counseling services, there is still more work that could be done.

The university should invest in spreading more awareness, educating on how to cope when a friend is suicidal, and provide methods if put in difficult situations.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 17.3 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2017. It is no surprise that college students are experiencing mental health issues with all the pressure, workload, and stress that they experience. What’s scary though is that one episode can lead to a downward spiral to a point where they feel like they’ve hit rock bottom.

Students can also be put in difficult situations where their friends tell them that they are thinking about killing themselves, or even harder situations where they are saying that they are going to kill themselves right then and there.

Suddenly, you can feel like you’ve been put in charge of a person’s life, and what happens to them may seem like it falls on your shoulders.

There is no way someone will ever be 100 percent ready to deal with this situation. There is also no step-by-step guide to approach and handle once you’re in the moment. The truth is that convincing someone that life is worth living is a decision that they must make on their own.

While every situation is different, students need to feel that they are emotionally ready to tackle if ever put in this situation because at the end of the day, it could save someone’s life. A training course that explains to students what to say, how to act, and prepare students for the different outcomes will provide the confidence and support if they are ever put in this situation.

One such possible course could be what’s known as gatekeeper training, which is already in use today in professional settings. There are a myriad of different gatekeeper courses out there, but certainly one could be adapted for student learning at Iowa.

In addition, the university must also include warning signs that allow students to catch signs right away. With students catching these signs faster, proper action such as expressing concerns to a counselor or encouraging their friends to ask for help before their condition worsens.

While advocating to seek help and promoting counselor services, students need to be prepared for the toughest situations. National Suicide Prevention week shouldn’t just be about spreading awareness that this is a serious matter, but rather educating people on how to prevent and cope with these situations.

Just like students are taught how to sign up for classes and use the Cambus, it is extremely important that they are given guidance on how to handle these intense situations because it’s a life skill that’s never taught in class.

National Suicide Prevention week shouldn’t just be the only time to address mental issues or just focus on advocating to ask for help and check up on friends. The university needs to educate students on how to handle difficult situations by providing a training course as well as spreading awareness.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.