The month of September is Suicide Prevention Month. It’s a time for students, community members, mental health advocates and organizations to come together to promote suicide prevention awareness.
Student organizations are making a push to promote mental wellness on Auburn’s campus. TJ Annerino, senior in political science and government, is co-president of Auburn’s chapter of Active Minds. Active Minds is a student-led organization committed to destigmatizing mental illness on college campuses.
For Annerino, growing up in the South meant that “mental health just wasn’t something that was talked about in school or elsewhere.”
However, when she got to Auburn and became involved with Active Minds, she was glad to discover, “other people were feeling anxious, other people were feeling overwhelmed, and I wasn’t alone.”
Annerino suspects isolation as a result of COVID-19 restrictions will play a role in the deterioration of student mental health, especially among freshmen who have not yet had the opportunity to form strong friendships.
However, Health Promotion and Wellness Services is making an effort to continue providing resources and community for students.
“Being isolated, of course, can affect everyone’s mental health,” Annerino said. “It’s even more difficult when you’ve been isolated for months in your hometown and now finally you’re in your college town and you’re excited to be here, and all of the sudden you’re being told you have to be in your dorm or apartment.”
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During a particularly taxing time on campus, Annerino said she is grateful for the opportunity to work with Active Minds to combat the issues that threaten students’ mental wellbeing and also propel the conversation about mental health, including suicide prevention.
“Unfortunately we have had students who have died by suicide in the past,” Annerino said.
According to a 2018 CDC report, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15–24 year olds.
“I personally know multiple people that went to Auburn that have taken their own lives because of mental illness,” said Megan Moreland, sophomore in psychology and a member of Active Minds. “My uncle took his own life as a college student, and I never got to meet him.”
Moreland joined Active Minds to fight the stigma against mental illness.
Having personally witnessed the effects of mental health struggles, she said she believes mental illness is common among college students, yet many people do not understand it.
“It isn’t something people can control, and a lot of people don’t realize that it has a lot to do with chemistry inside your brain,” Moreland said. “When someone commits suicide, they cannot think of others because the struggle inside themselves is too strong to control.”
This school year, the club’s efforts to destigmatize mental illness and present on-campus resources have been complicated by COVID-19 as students are unable to congregate in groups. There are still online resources for students, though.
Eleven campus departments and 10 student groups collaborated to create A Sound Mind, a website to promote mental wellness and offer resources for students to use to maintain their mental health. Annerino was able to contribute to this online resource.
This month, Active Minds is making a push on social media to make students aware of the online and on-campus resources available for their mental health.
Annerino said it is important for people to be able to connect either in person or online, and Active Minds wants students to be aware of those opportunities.
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