College to Participate in Important Panel Discussion on Suicide Prevention

College to Participate in Important Panel Discussion on Suicide Prevention

On September 10, Provost Peter Stearns will lead a thought-provoking panel discussion, “S"-Word. Sponsored by Mason’s Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS), the forum will address the topics of suicide and mental health from approaches including genetics, history, economics, social work, and education. The goal of the discussion is to change how our community views suicide, not as simply a mental health issue, but from a variety of perspectives.

“It’s a great learning opportunity for students, faculty and staff,” said Leslie Geer, LCSW, Interim Coordinator of Suicide Prevention. “Our hope is that we communicate the message that building a safe and healthy Mason campus is everybody’s responsibility.” 

The panel, which also includes Jason Dunick, undergraduate director, economics; Donna Fox, director, advanced biomedical sciences programs, College of Science; and Ted Hoch, College of Education and Human Development, is presented in conjunction with the university’s participation in National Suicide Prevention Week, September 8-14. Adrienne Barna, PhD, executive director of CAPS, explained that the effort is far-reaching and vitally important.

“Within university communities, we know that 80% of students who die by suicide have not connected to their university counseling center,” she said. “We also know that approximately 10% of students report having seriously considered suicide in the past year. At Mason this would be approximately 3300 students.”

Mason is one of only two universities in Virginia to have received a three-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to bolster suicide prevention and mental health stigma awareness programs. The university has used the funds from the grant to develop extensive safety nets of individuals who can provide support and resources to students in crisis. One such resource is Mason CARES (Campus Awareness, Referral and Education for Suicide Prevention), a training program that helps participants recognize the warning signs of suicide, and teaches them how to talk with students about suicide and suicidal thoughts and lead them to seek professional help.

The panel discussion, “S”-Word, will take place on Tuesday, September 10, from 5 pm – 6:30 pm, in the Johnson Center Cinema.