Among college students 18 to 24 years old, suicide is the second-leading cause of death, said Melissa Watkins, suicide prevention grant coordinator of the Student Health Center.
Watkins said her mission is to make sure that Fresno State students know about the variety of campus resources available to them if they begin to feel stress or depression.
For the past 39 years, National Suicide Prevention Week, which began Sunday, has been used to bring awareness about the growing number of suicides that occur daily in the United States.
Among 15- to 24-year olds, suicide accounts for 20% of all deaths annually, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Fresno State has multiple programs that are designed to help students with suicidal thoughts, Watkins said. She said the programs also educate students and faculty on the warning signs and how to respond to someone who may be considering suicide.
The main goal of these programs, she said, is to “help spread the message that it’s OK to ask for help.”
Jen Santos, a senior majoring in kinesiology and a suicide prevention program assistant, began working with the program in February and developed a strong personal connection.
Santos said she has been around people who have both attempted and succeeded in committing suicide.
“It really spoke to me,” she said, “Once I saw it was suicide prevention, it really hit home.
“Even though it is a very taboo subject, it does need to be addressed.”
Watkins said it is vital that students “acknowledge those warning signs, pay attention to the verbal cues that people give, the behaviors that they’re doing, their situations in life, things that are going on and learn about what they can do to speak up.”
Elizabeth Lopez, a public health graduate student, works with the Drug and Alcohol Awareness and Wellness Guides (DAAWG), which is a student group in the health center.
The program reaches out to students who are struggling with drug and alcohol addictions.
“With all our different programs, we do focus on going out to students. We don’t just stay within the health center,” Lopez said. “We really try to branch out to different areas on campus.”
She said they visit the Resident Dining Hall because of its close proximity to students who live in the dorms. Other high-traffic areas on campus, such as the Free Speech Area, are a focus for both the suicide prevention program and DAAWG.
Besides the Student Health Center, there are a variety of other resources available on campus that students can utilize.
The Women’s Resource Center offers counseling to female students and psychological services also are available, Lopez said.
Increasing awareness among students is critical, because “it’s better to tell your friend about the programs at an early point versus waiting until the last minute when something has already occurred,” Lopez said.