Marshall addresses suicide prevention through panel, trainings

Marshall University’s Department of Social Work helped kick off Suicide Prevention Month with a panel on suicide prevention Sept. 10 in the Memorial Student Center. 

The panel consisted of eight members and was moderated by Candace Layne, director of Marshall’s Counseling Center. Layne said college students are the second highest attempted and completed suicide rate population, and according to the American College Health Association, 6 percent of males and 8 percent of females of the 13 colleges and universities in West Virginia have seriously considered suicide. 

Layne asked the panel and audience what they could do to help. 

“Teach people to ask the difficult questions,” Peggy Proudfoot-Harman, director of master of social work program, said.

The Counseling Center is working to bring a training called Safe Talk to Marshall. 

“We have to talk, to ask, to listen and to keep people safe,” said Paula Rymer, clinical director of the Marshall University Health Professions Behavioral Health Center. “How do we do that if we’re afraid to talk about it?”  

Julie Brawn, suicide prevention coordinator of the Huntington Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said they train all the staff to understand the signs. 

“You don’t have to be a mental health specialist to intervene,” Brawn said. “It’s not rocket science.” 

Samantha Hicks, social worker for Cabell County schools, said to follow through with the person and get the help they need, just knowing someone is going to be there for him or her and through that process can really make a difference. 

“Just because you have the questions does not mean you have to have the answers,” Hicks said. “(Saying) ‘I’m not sure what we’ll do, but we’ll get through it together,’ that can have all the power in the world.” 

One problem the panel discussed was the stigma of religion with suicide. 

“Sometimes people are not in the right frame of mind to even pray for themselves,” Layne said. 

Sept. 18 there will be two trainings called Understanding Suicide from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. in the Shawkey Room of the Memorial Student Center. 

The Counseling Center and others from the Marshall community will be on the Rec Center lawn Sept. 22 before the football game to hand out hygiene bags and snack bags to spread awareness of suicide prevention.

The Counseling Center can be reached at [email protected] or 304-696-3111. The national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Gretchen Kalar can be contacted at [email protected].