September 19, 2010

Ithacans Rally Against Suicide

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As Ithaca and the University continue to emphasize community collaboration on mental health issues, students from Cornell, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College and other members of the Ithaca community came together on Sunday to participate in the Reach Out Walk for Suicide Prevention. Walkers started at Ho Plaza, Textor Hall at Ithaca College and Washington Park in downtown Ithaca, and ended in the Commons.

The event was sponsored by the Ithaca Suicide Prevention and Crises Service (SPCS) in conjunction with Cornell Minds Matter, EARS, Ithaca College, TC3 branches of Active Minds and Ithaca College branch of To Write Love on Her Arms.

The walk was the first of its kind in Ithaca, but was modeled after similar walks in other parts of the country. According to Lee-Ellen Marvin, director of interactive theater at Ithaca SPCS and organizer of the walk, students requested last spring that the SPCS organize a suicide prevention walk in response to the string of suicides on campus. “The money raised will help support the SPCS’ crises hotline and education programs,” Marvin said.

“The SPCS is wonderful. They do more for the Cornell community than most people realize. Students call up their hotline,” said Kathleen Davey ’12, a member of Cornell Minds Matter.

Several themes were repeated throughout the day: suicide is preventable, it is okay to ask for help and it is okay to ask someone else if they need help.

“We want people to know speaking out about hard feelings and depression, and reaching out for help and knowing how people are doing is okay. The connection between people is the most important protection against suicide,” Marvin said. The goal of the walk is for people to “walk away knowing it is okay to ask a friend who is struggling, to ask about suicide.”

LeBron Rankins, a psychologist at Ithaca College and a board member of SPCS, said that raising awareness of suicide is very important.

“Suicide is one of those things we don’t talk about,” Rankins said. “It’s ‘taboo’ and that needs to change.”

“What’s important is for people to acknowledge suicide is a real issue. In the past it’s been something that’s been hidden. Efforts to make things better don’t happen until people vocalize their issues,” said Casey Carr, advisor to Cornell Minds Matter. “We’re dedicated to having a healthy campus.”

Jayson Jones ’11, president of Cornell Minds Matter, agreed, emphasizing the importance of prevention.

“[We want] to get some kind of exposure going for suicide prevention … and show everyone people really do care about this … I have known a lot of people who have suffered from depression,” Jones said, explaining why he first joined Cornell Minds Matter. “I’m very emotionally invested.”

Meg Rindfleisch, an Ithaca College junior and the co-founder and former president of the Ithaca College branch of To Write Love on Her Arms, added that “suicide can be prevented. People are here to help.”

Rindfleisch said she founded the Ithaca branch of the National Suicide Prevention Organization because she “struggled with self-injury and depression and always felt alone in high school. [She] thought it was amazing that this group existed [nationally]” and wanted to create a local branch.

Michael Watson, Ithaca College sophomore and a member of Active Minds, reiterated that one of the goals of the walk is to let people know it is okay to ask for help. “We need to get rid of the stigma that getting counseled is a bad thing.”

After walkers arrived at the Commons, the event began with a performance by the Ithacan band Ayurveda. Twelve speakers followed the band, who discussed their personal experiences with suicide and what can be done to help. At the conclusion of the event, Joe Crookston and the Bluebird Jamboree gave another musical performance.

Original Author: Joseph Niczky