“Project Happiness” to increase suicide prevention and awareness

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death in college-aged people.

In the wake of National Suicide Prevention Week (the first week of November), Oakland University Rec-Well and the OU Counseling Center will be hosting a “Project Happiness” film screening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 29 in the Oakland Room of the Oakland Center.

“A family who lost a loved one to suicide created an endowment for the university,” said Erica Wallace, health and wellness coordinator for OU Rec Well. “This is the first year that we’ve received that endowment, and we’re doing programming around it.”

Through a discussion that will be facilitated after the showing, the event organizers plan for the program to provide hope and happiness for those who may be struggling and awareness for others.

The discussion will also deal with how to detect whether someone may be at risk of suicide and how to handle those situations.

“Sometimes we think that suicide happens without warning, but that is not really the case,” Wallace said. “Significant changes in behavior or personality, isolation, withdrawing from loved ones and friends, no longer engaging in activities they used to enjoy, acting irritable or agitated, and making amends [are all signs].”

Authorities who study the warning signs suggest that if students notice these signs in someone they know, they should come right out and ask if the person is considering suicide.

“A lot of times, people shy away from asking that direct question, but that’s the single best thing you can do,” said David Schwartz, clinical psychologist and director of the OU Counseling Center.

There are multiple clubs on campus that revolve around this topic, including Active Minds at OU, which seeks to break down the stigma on mental health, and Actively Moving Forward at Oakland University, which is a grief support group.

Easterseals, a national organization devoted to getting individuals with mental health problems and/or disabilities access to resources and care, has recently partnered with OU to place a kiosk for mental health screening in Kresge Library. Students may have noticed the kiosk, which is located near the circulation desk on the ground level.

Use of the kiosk, which was implemented on Oct. 21, is free and completely private. Participants simply answer questions that allow it to screen for about 21 different mental health problems, and if the kiosk detects a need for additional care, it immediately refers the user to an appropriate resource, such as the OU Counseling Center, a crisis center, or the suicide hotline.

Grizzlies Response: Awareness and Suicide Prevention (GRASP) will also be offering GRASP Training, which is a free 90-minute drop-in class on mental illness and suicide prevention. Training can be requested on GRASP’s page on Oakland’s website.

GRASP is also offering Mental Health First Aid Training on Friday, Dec. 2. Students must register by Wednesday, Nov. 30, by emailing Wallace at [email protected].

“It’s an eight-hour training, and participants get a free manual and a certificate that’s valid for three years,” Wallace said. “People who maybe don’t have a psychology or counseling background can still come and learn how to stop the differences in typical and atypical youth development.”

As for students who may be suffering from depression, anxiety or any number of mental health concerns, OU has many resources available.

The OU Counseling Center offers six free sessions during a student’s time at OU, while the Office of the Dean of Students can work with students to facilitate a medical withdrawal from classes, which is considered time off to recuperate.

Those who are concerned with someone they know being at immediate risk are urged to contact the Oakland University Police Department (OUPD), as the police are trained in how to handle such situations. The OUPD Dispatch Operations Center can be reached at (248) 370-3331.

The free and confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at (1-800) 273-8255 and is available 24/7.

For more information on the “Project Happiness” film screening and the other endowment programs, contact Erica Wallace at [email protected].