Suicide prevention activist encourages discussion

By Penny Schmitz

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Photographer, writer, and suicide attempt survivor and awareness advocate Dese’Rae L. Stage spoke to students and faculty Thursday evening about her suicide awareness project, “Live Through This.”

The UK Counseling Center attended the event in case any content triggered an emotional response.

“Live Through This” is a collection of portraits and stories of suicide attempt survivors. Through the stories, survivors are encouraged to share their experiences publicly, aiming to reduce the silence, stigma and shame associated with suicide.

“We (suicide attempt survivors) are anonymous, stripped of our identity. We are check boxes on surveys. I wanted to bring it (suicide) back to the flesh … If we can’t put numbers to the faces then why would we care,” Stage said. “We always ask the question, ‘why?’ when it is too late. Attempt survivors know the answers.”

An effective way to confront a person with suicidal ideation is through clear, concise language, according to Stage.

“I want us to have a voice, I want for us to control our own stories,” Stage said. “I want society to see it as any other struggle. I want people to know what to do when they come in contact with someone who confesses that they are having those feelings. I don’t want to see pity and fear in the eyes of people who know that I’ve struggled.”

The UK Counseling Center has group and individual therapy as well as an anonymous form for students to complete if they are feeling concerned for themselves or someone in their life.

“UK provides free Question-Persuade-Refer gatekeeper suicide prevention training to anyone who requests it, faculty, staff or students,” wrote Mary Chandler Bolin, director of the UK Counseling Center, in an email. Bolin noted that in extreme cases concerning suicide, like someone having a gun and making suicidal claims, the appropriate response is to call 911.

When a student enters Frazee Hall for the initial treatment, an evaluation is completed.

The first appointment at the UKCC is an Initial Assessment during which a clinician gathers information from the student client in order to make a recommendation.

“Our staff are good listeners who are very aware of the stresses and transitions faced by college students, able to provide support, problem-solving, psychotherapy and/or referrals as appropriate,” Bolin wrote.