Preceding the Suicide Prevention Walk, Sacramento State’s Health and Wellness Promotion Department hosted the first Mental Health Fair in front of the Well. The fair brought awareness to students and faculty about the importance of recognizing and addressing mental health issues, and the prevention of suicide.
Health Educator Kalyn Coppedge played an integral part in organizing the fair. She said the goal of the day was to make students more knowledgeable about the many outside resources available to them regarding mental health care.
Coppedge said mental illness and suicide are major problems in today’s society, but especially at the collegiate level.
“In the general population, one in four people will experience a mental health disorder at any given year,” Coppedge said. “Suicide is the No. 2 cause of death among college students, so it’s a big problem. Here at Sac State we’re trying to address mental health in terms of prevention as well as treatment.”
Coppedge also spoke about the difficulties of helping at risk students on a commuter campus.
“I actually think that for students it means there’s a lot more stressors,” Coppedge said. “So it means you have to balance being at home, helping your family, the commute. A lot of Sac State students are working as well at being a successful college student.”
Coppedge said it can be harder to create a community and know how to reach out when students need it.
“Some students feel really disconnected – they’re only here for classes,” Coppedge said.
With more than 20 vendors in attendance including the Sutter Center of Psychiatry, Hearts and Hands Counseling and TerraNova Counseling, students were able to walk up and down the Well pathway and ask about the different counseling services offered.
“Why we’re here today specifically for the college-aged students is the fact that suicide is the No. 2 leading cause of death amongst college-aged students,” said Joe Sharpe, Director of Access and Community Outreach at Sutter Center of Psychiatry. “So we feel that in some capacity there’s a crisis taking place and we need to do our part and be a community resource for students.”
Communication studies alumna Jeraniqua Martin, who graduated in 2012 and now works for TerraNova Counseling as a youth partner, said she could recall something tragic that happened from her Sac State days that called for immediate attention to mental health issues.
“I know when I was here there was an incident that occurred at the dorms where a student just went on a rampage and killed his roommate and I think (he) killed himself,” Martin said. “That story got a lot of (attention) and everyone was talking about it. After a couple of weeks – maybe a couple of months – the story started to dwindle down and it started to lose attention.”
Coppedge said she hopes events like this one will make people actively aware of the problem.
The turnout of participants for the day left Coppedge feeling optimistic.
“I’m proud of our campus,” she said. “I think people really come through in a way that’s pretty awesome. Suicide is not sexy. It’s not a happy, fun thing to get behind for a lot of people. So a lot of people don’t say that word – they don’t talk about it. So to have 700 people here at a commuter campus where people don’t really do stuff like that is pretty incredible.”
For more information about the Suicide Prevention Walk, see Kayla Oliverio’s story here.