Paige Trauernicht, Megan Day, Ana Martinez
For our commons campaign, our group is focusing on the mental health issues that lead to suicides on college campus resulting in our primary audience being college aged students.
There are many constraints that are involved with such a sensitive topic. First, people may not be open to discussing such a painful event of a friend/family member who committed suicide. Second, there are a lot of unanswered questions or unknown information as to why a person chose to commit suicide. Finally, the signs someone may show who’s considering suicide aren’t always the easiest to recognize.
There are also many opportunities that are involved with this topic. First, we are able to inform people who are mentally unstable/depressed/contemplating suicide where they can go to receive help to better their situation. These are called safe places on campus that can provide the individual with help. Second, we are able to inform the friends and family of places they can also turn to for help/emotional support/guidance/and ways to help their loved one. Finally, we are able to educate people on a sensitive topic that is often buried and not talked about.
Our proposal is fitting because it focuses on our own campus and students who are suffering. In the past couple of years, this university has suffered from many student suicides. This project would help educate people who feel like suicide is a possible option and show them there are people who care and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
In this project, we will achieve many things: educate students who they can talk to, educate friends and family on the proper procedures to take if a loved one is contemplating committing suicide, and make students on campus feel like they are important and cared about as well as educate them on them safe places.
This is inventive because there have been a lot of efforts for other issues on campus but there seems to be a lack of a suicide prevention. Being able to possibly save even one life is a lasting impact on the community. We’re taking a creative approach by creating an educational YouTube video on college campus suicide as well as creating posters with uplifting phrases, letting the student reader know that they’re worth it.
One way we’d like to make our project memorable is to have a module on Blackboard or Canvas, like the one we have for Title IX. Sexual assault on campus is prevalent, but so is mental health. Having an educational module discussing ways to cope and services the University has can possibly help a student who is confused and doesn’t know what to do. We would also like to make our project memorable by helping advertise for clubs on campus that focus on mental health issues.
For modes of delivery, we want to focus on social media sites like YouTube to help get the word out. It’s something that our audience frequently uses, and if they are able to see this video and it helps them in some way then we have achieved our goal. Our posters are another medium because they will be hung in places many students gather, like the library or the student union. These posters will be the easiest way to reach out to our audience. We also plan on having oral interviews with students and club leaders.
As for our timeline, we’d like to have all of our interviews done before Spring break. This gives us plenty of time to get the footage together and edited into our video as well as find inspiration for our posters. We also want to be in contact with someone from the University about the possible module as soon as we can since we know that it will take the longest to get it approved if we can at all. Paige will do most of the recording while Megan does the interviews, and Ana will edit and create the video. We’re all going to collaborate on the posters, but Megan will do most of the designing.
To start our campaign, we created a survey and asked what college students thought about suicide and resources we had on campus. Our next step was to interview Cassie McCormick, who was a part of the Out of the Darkness Walk. McCormick also worked on the Redirect the Conversation campaign to get a better insight into the walk and what it means to its participants. We also participated in the Out of the Darkness Walk and were able to various video footage from the walk. Along with the video, we also took a few pictures of posters that were promoted on the walk along with people who attended. We created our own posters that were informative and compared myths versus facts about suicide rates. We advertised them in popular places around campus like in The Union, the Learning Commons and in some residence halls. To add to our list, we filmed, edited, and posted an educational video. The video entailed an interview with Cassie McCormick, Nebraska suicide facts, as well as snippets from the Out of Darkness walk.
From our survey, the major finding was that students didn’t think suicide was the most prevalent issue on campus, instead they thought rape culture was more important. Most of our respondents knew about resources on campus for suicide prevention but didn’t think there was enough. A lot of people also didn’t know about organizations like, Active Minds, that aim to stop the stigma surrounding mental health on campus. However, on top of not knowing about organizations a lot of people were not interested in joining one. This could be explained by the fact that most of the respondents are most comfortable talking about suicidal thoughts with a therapist rather than a close friend or family member. The main thing we found from this survey is that people don’t like talking about suicide, which is something we aimed to change.
In our campaign, we didn’t take an approach that would give us hard evidence on how we’ve made a difference. That’s because our goal was to have students be exposed to suicide rates and information and the resources we have on campus. If someone saw our poster and learned that it was okay to talk about suicide or understand the myths versus facts, we’ve reached our goal. We didn’t create a way to measure what students thought after seeing our posters or videos, but getting our information out there is the first step in the right direction in changing the suicide stigma on campus.
There were many things that went well with our campaign, the first one being the Out of the Darkness Walk. We participated in this walk and it helped us gain a hands on experience. Exposing ourselves created a vulnerability, which helped us see how mental health impacts everyone. There were many families representing loved ones who had suffered and there is no way to understand a feeling until you see it. One moment in particular that stood out was a distribution of balloons between a family. They started to sing “Happy Birthday” to a loved one who had committed suicide and then let go of the balloons in their honor. Seeing this made it clear that this is a topic that needs to be heard. As everyone gathered around to hear speeches from various leaders for the walk, we also took a moment of silence in respect to all of the people who left their loved ones too soon. This event made our project have a reason and gave an emphasis on why it should be talked about in our community.
Next, we delivered information to a diverse group of people by creating an informational video and making it accessible on YouTube as well as creating posters that are easily accessible to many people.
If we had to do it again, we would do a few things differently. For starters we would campaign more on social media platforms by creating a Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram. Another thing we looked into but wasn’t able to accomplish was creating a module on Blackboard that was informational about mental health, suicide prevention and resources on campus. This would be similar to the Title IX module, and would also have a video that is required to watch or else your account will be placed on hold. Title IX did this when it first came to Blackboard and it was a great way to get their information out to the entire student body. With the University switching to Canvas, we would have to find a way to incorporate it there or on MyRed.
Overall, this campaign really opened our eyes to suicide on college campuses. It’s not an easy topic to talk about, but getting people started is a step in the right direction. The more we talk about it, the more we can all help students struggling with suicidal thoughts. I hope to see our posters and video make a difference in the future.
Facts from video:https://www.education.ne.gov/safety/2016%20Nebraska%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf