Rape. Sexual assault. Physical assault. Substance abuse. Bullying. Poverty. Depression. All of those words mean something different to different people, but all of those different circumstances can lead to one word, suicide. According to a study by Emory University, “there are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year.” Emory University also found that, “suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 25 to 34 and the third-leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 24.”
Colleges and universities across the United States are now trying to implement programs to and outlets to prevent suicide, for students to express their feelings. On November 3, 2016, Winthrop University took another step towards the discussion of suicide and the factors that can lead to it with the event, It Could Have Ended There.
The event was created by Renee King a junior political science major and public relations chair of the student organization Visible. The catalyst that led to the creation of this event occurred on September 4, 2016, when a friend of King’s committed suicide. This was a complete shock to King and she then believed through her personal observation of the racially divided organizations on campus and the loss of her friend, the event would be a great way to start the dismantling of seclusion of student organizations at Winthrop University and the conversation of suicide, breaking the stigma by opening up.
“Because this is a collaborative event with different organization, students wont feel as excluded. They can speak to organizations without being afraid. Breaking out of cliques and meeting new people,” King said.
Arianda Lopez a freshman business major decided to attend the event because she liked the topic and believed it would be, “interesting to hear people who have gone and overcame mental health challenges.”
The event had panelists who discussed struggles they faced in their life. The range of struggles included anxiety, depression, child poverty, substance abuse, physical and sexual assault, bullying and others.
TyQuan Butler, a senior social work major, and 2016 Homecoming King was a member of the panel. “My experiences can help others, I can provide a different experience because stories that others tell are completely different,” Butler said.
Amanda Blanchard, a junior biology and chemistry major opened up by saying, “My goal for tonight is to show people that they are not alone, they are not weak, they are not less valuable to society. I want to show you that you are strong, and that you can fight for yourself, you can succeed in life.”
Blanchard struggled through events in her life including rape and physical assault.
“In 2010, I moved into my first apartment, ready to start college. During the end of my 18th birthday party (and housewarming party) I was violently raped by a complete stranger. As I reached for them, he grabbed me, forcing me on the bed, holding me down so strongly, but also making sure he hit me enough times for me to be defenseless against him. Eventually, I got my knee up high enough to kick him in the lower stomach, and I grabbed my scissors, which I believed to be the only thing that could save my life,” Blanchard stated during the event.
During the event Blanchard then went on to discuss another event that shaped her life.
“In 2011, my roommate came into my room, grabbed my hair, and started hitting me because she thought that I was talking about her,” Blanchard stated.
Butler and Blanchard are not the only panelists that had moving and compelling stories for the audience to hear. Other panelists discussed their struggles with bullying, anxiety, substance abuse and depression.
The reviews of the event from the audience members were positive.
“Inspiring and great to hear stories,” Josleyn Hicks, senior psychology major said.
Leyia Grant, sophomore mathematics major, discussed the importance of the event and what message students should leave with. “It is important for you to be vocal about anything you could be going through, because there is always someone that cares about you and what you are going through, very helpful for this event to be organized,”
King hoped the event would “open conversations up as a student body,” and on November 3, 2016, the conversation of suicide continued.
Health and Counseling Services at Winthrop is located in Crawford Building and the national suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-8255.