By Lyndsey Peace, Editor-in-Chief
In honor of National Suicide Prevention Day, HSU’s mental health peer mentors worked with the Office of Counseling Services to host a candlelight vigil on Sept.10.
Students, faculty and staff and parents attended the vigil to remember loved ones and raise awareness for mental health issues.
Hannah Beth Neighbors, a junior double major in history and Spanish, is one of the five mental health peer mentors this year. She explained that being a mental health peer mentor is a new position, so the students involved had the opportunity to help shape what it looks like.
“There was a lot of student input which was really exciting,” Neighbors said.
Along with Neighbors, the current mentors are Joshua Pruitt, Miranda Stewart, Abigail Monigold and Maranda Westbrook. Because these mentors are fellow students, those struggling with mental health might be more comfortable speaking and relating to them.
At the beginning of this semester, Nikki Rhodes, director of Counseling Services, helped the mentors decide the best time to host events, such as National Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10. From there, the mentors met regularly and planned the candlelight vigil.
The event was held inside the alumni wall and as everyone huddled together, sheltering their candles, the mentors shared personal experiences about loss and struggling with mental illness. The mentors did not shy away from speaking openly about suicide.
“We wanted to have this event and make it very much about suicide because on campus there’s not a lot of talking about it, and there’s kind of a stigma against being open about it,” Neighbors said.
When someone is struggling with a mental illness, it is easy to feel like no one understands, but students might not realize how common and widespread the issue is across campus.
“There are so many of us struggling with [mental health] and we are all going through different variations of the exact same thing, but we all feel like we’re so alone,” Neighbors said.
To create a more unified, loving campus, we need to reach out to those who we notice are struggling. If you are worried about a friend, encourage them to seek counseling or to speak with a mental health peer mentor. If the issue is more serious, this might not be the best immediate action.
“If it gets to the point where you are concerned someone might hurt themselves, you should definitely call someone. Even if you think it might hurt your friendship, it’s better to hurt your friendship than hurt your friend,” Neighbors said.
If you are unsure of how to support a friend, remember being there for someone does not have to be complicated. It just means listening, supporting and being present.
“On a smaller level, some people just need to be heard. They need to know that they’re not alone and that the pain that they’re feeling is real,” Neighbors said.
Remember that mental health is something everyone deals with. Instead of ignoring the issue of mental health, it is time to be vocal and help end the stigma. Check on your friends and if you are personally struggling with your mental health, please reach out to HSU’s Office of Counseling or to one of your mental health peer mentors.