‘It’s OK to use the suicide word’: UK psychologist urges students to be open when concerned about mental health

Jacob Eads

About 130 people are impacted personally each time someone dies by suicide, according to Dr. Julie Cerel’s research.

After the deaths of two of UK’s own students this semester, campus leaders are hoping to initiate a dialogue about mental health and wellness, and they want you to be involved.

Sophomore Taylor Nolan died in Lexington on Jan. 8. Freshman Sean Culley died on Jan. 23. Both were 19 years old. On Jan. 25, President Eli Capilouto sent a campus-wide email consoling the campus community.

Capilouto’s message: No matter who you are, “you are not alone.”

Apart from her roles as a UK professor and as a licensed psychologist, Dr. Julie Cerel serves as the President of the American Association of Suicidology. Her biggest advice to the campus community at this time is to simply look out for one another.

“Look out for your friends, look out for people you care about. If you’re concerned about them it’s OK to talk to them and tell them you’re concerned. It’s OK to use the suicide word,” Cerel said.

While most of the students and faculty on campus aren’t trained to recognize the warning signs of mental illness, there are a multitude of free mental health resources on campus staffed with experienced professionals who are.

But Cerel said what those professionals can’t do is know when you’re close to somebody who is struggling. That’s why it’s important to watch out for each other, especially at times like these.

Even if the campus community may not always talk openly about suicide, Cerel said that the impact of these events might stretch further than you’d think.

“When we lose somebody we care about, of course we spend time thinking about them. It’s just when it starts occupying a lot of time, getting in the way of going to school, wanting to be with your friends and getting your school work done… is when it becomes problematic,” said Cerel.

So what this boils down to, she said, is, “if you need help, get help. If you think your friend needs help talk to them and get them help.”

Here is a list of mental health resources available free to students UK students:

The UK Counseling Center offers walk-in crisis appointments seeking immediate assistance. You can also make non-emergency appointments throughout the week with UKCC’s trained clinicians. If you need to consult with someone from the UKCC after business hours, you can call 859-257-8701.

The UKCC provides QPR suicide prevention trainings for faculty, students and staff intended to help members of the campus community recognize potential warning signs and risk factors for those who feel overwhelmed or may be at-risk for suicide. QPR has a focus on listening skills, empathic supportive responding, and being able to connect the at-risk individual with appropriate professional services

The UKCC also holds weekly informal “Let’s Talk” consultations with experienced clinicians at six sites around campus. Appointments are not necessary for these sessions.

The UKCC will host a mental health check-up and screening day for all students and staff on Feb. 13 at various locations on campus.

The UKCC trains and supervises 16 mental health peer advocates who will be tabling each week around campus following the general mental health check-up and screening day until the end of the semester.

The UK Veteran’s Resource Center works daily to assist veterans during their transition from active duty to college life.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8225).

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line at 741-741.