Local colleges raising awareness of suicide, prevention efforts - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Local colleges raising awareness of suicide, prevention efforts

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Wartburg student Paris White has lost four loved ones to suicide Wartburg student Paris White has lost four loved ones to suicide
WAVERLY (KWWL) -

Thousands of teens and young adults die each year as a result of their own actions.  The numbers are staggering.  Suicides are the third leading cause of death in 15 to 24 year olds, with 4400 deaths.  Fourteen percent of high school students have considered suicide, and half of those have attempted ending their life.

Wartburg College in Waverly is taking steps to educate students and staff to help prevent suicide.  Wartburg is one of just 39 colleges nationwide, and the only small school, to get a federal grant supporting suicide prevention efforts.

Wartburg has never had a student die from suicide, but there are at least 11 attempts a year on campus.  The college hopes those numbers drop, through grant funded programs sparking important conversations about suicide.

Wartburg student Paris White knows first-hand the hurt suicide causes.

"I actually know four people that have committed suicide," White said.

The worst was losing her 15-year-old friend Adrian and feeling guilty about it.

"We ended up getting in a big fight the summer before freshman year, and I knew that he was having trouble with his depression and that sort of thing, but I was so mad at him.  I was young and immature.  I started to ignore him and that's when he started messaging me that he was going to commit suicide," said White.

White never told anyone about those messages, and in November 2007, Adrian hanged himself.

"I'm still sad about it.  I still cry once in a while, but I'm to the point where all I want to do is help other people that are in those situations," said White.

Now, she and other students at Wartburg College in Waverly are working together in an effort to prevent suicide.  This year, a student group called SAFE launched.  And Monday, educators from around the Midwest gathered at Wartburg for a suicide prevention conference.  It's all made possible through a $73,000 federal grant.

"It's okay to talk about suicide.  Asking somebody if they feel like hurting themselves is not going to make them do it, and I think that's one of the biggest myths out there that needs to get dispelled," said Stephanie Newsom, Wartburg Counseling Services Director.

Wartburg's grant is also funding a campus suicide prevention coordinator, who's organizing programs to teach students about resources available to help them, working toward overall wellness, and dealing with their problems safely.

"Having lots of activities that get them to think about healthy living, coping mechanisms, stress relieving techniques for students that we wouldn't be able to do without this grant," said Newsom.

It's hoped those programs will educate the student body and beyond that help is available so suicide doesn't become a way out. 

Wartburg has also started a training program for student leaders to spot warning signs, and giving them resources to help them talk to someone who might be considering suicide.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, there are plenty of resources to help.  The national suicide prevention hotline can be reached at 1-800-273-TALK. 

Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids is also taking time to raise awareness about suicide.  The college's "Active Minds" chapter has planted 1100 white flags on campus.  The flags represent the 1100 college students nationwide who commit suicide each year.  Students hope the flags are a reminder that suicide is preventable, and they encourage anyone needing help to call the crisis line or contact campus counseling services.

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