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Wartburg to hire new suicide prevention coordinator

Suicide Prevention
The word love is written on students’ wrists to symbolize their support for suicide awareness week on “To Write Love on Her Arms Day.” — Emily Novotny

Wartburg’s Counseling Services received a three-year federal grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA) on Sept. 10 to hire a suicide prevention coordinator.

After applying two years ago for the grant, which is worth approximately $72,000 for each year, a position opened for the new suicide prevention program offered on campus.

“The opportunity sort of presented itself with this grant,” Director of Counseling Services, Stephanie Newsom said. “We have a lot of students who have had various types of mental health issues.”

One Wartburg student, who asked to remain anonymous, first dealt with manic depression and anxiety after starting college three years ago.

Although she never attempted to commit suicide, she said the thought crossed her mind more than once.

“I found that if I focus on something that’s worth living for, then I can pull myself away and step away from the metaphorical ledge,” the student said.

Responsibilities for the new role include working with community partners, such as the Waverly Health Center, educating students about suicide prevention and conducting surveys.

The coordinator’s largest task will be preparing a conference in April 2013. The conference collaborates with other small colleges who run similar prevention programs.

The new coordinator has not been hired yet but Newsom said they are actively searching.

Newsom and her colleagues want to choose a coordinator not only with a mental health background but somebody who is organized, experienced and comfortable working with others.

“Knowing that suicide is one of the number one killers, so to speak, among young folks and college-aged individuals, we want to make sure we are providing education and offering support,” Newsom said.

According to ulifeline.org,  most people who commit suicide suffer from an emotional disorder such as depression, anxiety disorder or bipolar disorder—which all can increase the risk for suicide.

The student said she hopes the new coordinator will help spread the word and generate a stronger awareness.

“People try to make it out like suicide isn’t that common or that prevalent,” the student said. “They need to understand that suicide is more than just the act itself. There are thought processes that go along with it.”

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