PSC recognizes Suicide Prevention Month by creating an open dialogue
By Jennifer Brandon
Are you suicidal? This question might seem taboo, but could save a life if asked.
Rachelle S. Burns, the Crisis Referral Coordinator of the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT) at Pensacola State College said, “Suicide prevention is anything that you do to help someone that is struggling. Suicide is the extreme last resort of someone who is in a lot of emotional pain. Anytime you help someone that is stressed, hurt, upset, or floundering, you are engaging in suicide prevention.”
On Ms. Burns wall above her desk is a collage of pictures. Delicately placed in the center, a black and white photo of a handsome young man with a bright smile stares back. He committed suicide in 2011, before the BIT team was in place and before faculty and staff at PSC knew how to respond to a crisis such as his.
Burns’ view is that one person who dies by suicide is one person too many. She suggests one suicide impacts close to 150 people, with about 25 of those people being very close and significantly impacted by the death.
“I’m doing mental health triage. In our busy culture, we’ve lost the art of listening to people, and it’s very validating and healing to have someone listen to you.” said Burns.
BIT was created by the PSC administration in 2012. The college recognized the importance of taking care of students not only inside the classroom, but also outside of it. A student’s daily life and struggles directly impact how he/she will do inside the classroom. The team tries to intervene before the student reaches a crisis level.
Approximately 1,100 college students commit suicide every year. Federally funded programs and resources are essential for the safety and mental health of all students.
With 800 United States veterans attending PSC this semester, it is important to look at the statistics and resources available to this group of students alone. The suicide rate among male veterans is 38.3 per 100,000. Among female veterans, the suicide rate is 12.8 per 100,000 according to the Veteran Affairs (VA) website.
The VA estimates 20 veterans commit suicide daily.
Bill Tice the director of Veterans Student Support Services on campus, said “You want to get people to talk about it. Ask the question; are you thinking about suicide? That’s the hardest question for people to ask, because once they find out the answer, most people don’t know what to do.”
Tice is a new member of BIT and has an extensive background in mental health. His advice to anyone that may be contemplating suicide is to seek help immediately.
“My door is always open to veterans, and I can be a resource to help point them in the right direction. I will do whatever I can to help a student’s well-being,” said Tice.
Colleges across the nation and the VA are working to help remove the stigma that surrounds mental health; as a result, resources such as BIT are becoming more common. This stigma of mental illness is preventing people from getting the help they need. The entire campus community has to work together to combat the shame felt by some concerning mental health treatment.
Suicidal signs to look for include increased use of drugs or alcohol, sleeping too much or too little, acting recklessly, aggression, isolating themselves from family and friends, withdrawing from activities, looking for a way to kill themselves or researching suicide online, saying goodbye to loved ones, giving away prized possessions, talking about being a burden, talk of feeling trapped, talk of having no reason to live, and displaying changes in mood such as depression and anxiety.
If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these symptoms, please contact the resources listed below.