Candlelight in the Quad
September 14, 2016
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This past week was National Suicide Prevention Week, a time of year dedicated to preventing those who suffer from depression and mental illness from taking their own life.
This year’s theme, sponsored by the American Association of Sociology, is “Connect. Communicate. Care,” which is intended to focus on raising awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death on a global level. In fact, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, with one suicide occurring on average every 12.3 minutes. It is also the second leading cause of death among 15- to 24-year-olds.
One club that took initiative on campus during this week was the Psychology Club, which hosted a small candlelight vigil outside of Bartel’s Student Activity Center this past Saturday (September 10). While there, anyone could grab a small mason jar and write encouraging notes on it or dedicate it to a person of their choosing, before lighting a small candle inside of it.
Stephanie Baringer, President of the Psychology Club, said that originally to commemorate this week people would write similar notes on balloons, followed by releasing them, but that quickly caused more harm than good.
“When the balloons go into the atmosphere they’ll eventually pop, and then the plastic will fall,” she said, “and especially since we’re so close to the coast, they’ll land in the water and sea turtles will eat them, so that kills turtles. And, the Marine Biology Club approached the president at the time, they’re like ‘please don’t do that again.’”
That idea was quickly avoided the following year.
When asked about the idea of a mason-jar candle-lighting, Baringer said she got the idea during a conference this past May.
“I thought of alternatives that we could do that wouldn’t kill sea turtles, and that would still be within our price range. I was just searching through different ideas and one of them was paper bag candles. And I knew that paper bag candles wouldn’t be plausible, in a windy area, on a campus, so I thought of mason jar candles.”
She continued to elaborate on why this event was important for her club specifically, too.
“I feel that we haven’t had as much of a presence in the past, so I really want this to put us out there and be like “we’re a thing” and we’re not going to just table in Bartel’s, we’re going to put on actual events, because in the past we’ve tabled a lot, and that’s all good and fun, but you don’t get as much of an effect.”
The event itself was simple and serene, each person paying their respects to those who we have lost due to suicide, while others wrote encouraging notes of support such as “you are loved,” “you’re not a mistake, you’re a gift,” and “love conquers all.”
The candle lighting itself and small notes of support like those are only a couple of the examples we can give to those who are struggling. There are also multiple resources and facilities that those feeling they are in need of help can go to, on and off campus, which Baringer explained further.
“Of course they always preach ‘go to your RA if you don’t feel comfortable going to a professional, but sometimes you don’t have the best relationship with them.” Baringer said. “My freshman RA was the absolute best person on the planet, but then my RA the next year was horrible, we could not relate at all. But the school does have the counseling center, it’s on campus, it’s in Sheffield Hall, and they really want to push in the direction of ‘they’re there for the students.’”
In fact, the counseling and psychological services here at UNH provide free and confidential counseling services to currently enrolled students.’ These services include brief counseling, substance abuse groups, consultations, and crisis interventions.
“We strive to offer these services in an atmosphere that is welcoming and comfortable for all students, regardless of race, gender, ethnic background, age, sexual orientation, citizenship, or physical status,” the website states.
When asked about what resources the counseling center on campus can provide for students, Baringer said “if you’re having a bad day, having a rough time adjusting to college, relationship issues, that’s a place you can go to and you can talk to a professional, so I think that is an absolute great resource for students and we’re going to be working more closely with them this year, just to get that out there, that you don’t have to go there if you’re clinically depressed, you can go there if you’re just having a rough week,” she continued. “I still feel like even though we’re college students, we get it, there’s still a stigma attached to if you’re depressed, or if you have suicidal thoughts or anything like that, there’s still that stigma that you don’t want to tell people about it. So I hope that this week really shines a light on the fact that it happens, it happens more often than you think, because the suicide rate is going up, which is mind-blowing to me. I hope that if anyone is like struggling, they see how many people are out there and support something like this, if it makes them feel better for one more day then it’s worth it.”
If you feel that you are in need of any type of counseling or just need someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to visit the counseling services center, located on the lower level of Sheffield Hall. Their contact number is (203)-932-7332. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can also connect you to a local crisis line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Their number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and more information can be accessed on www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.