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Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

Marshall University's Student Newspaper

The Parthenon

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Conference Raises Awareness for Suicide Prevention on Campus

Self-awareness and education are important factors in helping those with mental health struggles, said the coordinator of Marshall’s West Virginia Collegiate Suicide Prevention Conference.

“Lots of times, we tell people, ‘Oh, just reach out. We know where for you to go,’” said Paula Rymer, associate professor for the Master of Social Work program. “Why don’t we reach in?”

“There’s a lot of people that aren’t going to reach out because they’re really self-conscious, or they think nobody’s going to listen,” she added.

The conference, which took place April 1-2 in the Memorial Student Center, served as a means of educating students on the resources available to them.

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Sponsored by Marshall University Suicide Prevention Education Across Campus, this conference was the third on suicide prevention at the university. However, this year marked the second to be considered a West Virginia collegiate conference, with representatives from different state colleges in attendance.

“We’ve been working on trying to create a partnership across the state and work together on developing safety nets—ways to keep students safe and engaged and giving them the feeling of belongingness on campus,” Rymer said. 

Attendees had the opportunity to hear speakers and participate in workshops relevant to students and faculty members. The conference also provided West Virginia social workers certification for 11.5 continuing education units.

“These are workshops not only for professionals, but we’ve also had them to help students,” Rymer said.   “There’s been different kinds of workshops to help them, like mindfulness workshops.” 

Graduate student Katherine Lambert took part in leading a workshop on academic burnout for the conference. 

“Hannah and I lead a small, six-week therapy group in East Hall called Bounce Back from Burnout,” Lambert said, “and we just took a few pieces from what we’ve done so far and incorporated it into an hour-long fun session.” 

Lambert said it’s important to include lighter subjects and activities in the conference because it revolves around such a difficult topic.

“Since this is such a serious topic – I mean, it’s about suicide, it’s really heavy – we wanted to keep it lighthearted and have people focus on their own wellbeing and how their feeling, not only in academics but also career-wise,” Lambert said.

Even as a graduate student and volunteer for the conference, Lambert said she learned new pieces of information from the speakers.

Rymer, for instance, taught attendees about her specialty, suicidology, a field she began teaching at the university in 2018.

Rymer’s suicidology research pilot program Suicidology Research and Study Lab is currently part of the College of Health Professions and the Department of Social Work; however, she intends to spread it campuswide, broadening awareness for suicide prevention on campus. 



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