Suicide Prevention Week caters to GLBT students

By Alissa Hayward

A serious issue is being brought to light this week, especially for one group of students.

UK’s Midwinter Suicide Prevention Week will focus on the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community and on improved training for health professionals.

The goal of Suicide Prevention Week is to spread awareness about suicide among college students, discuss risk factors for GLBT students and educate professional students, Julie Cerel, social work professor and child clinical psychologist, said.

The University of Kentucky Increasing Networks for Campus Awareness to Suicide Emergencies (UK-IN-CASE) made the decision to make the GLBT community the focus for the Midwinter Suicide Prevention Week after reviewing data from a survey by UK-IN-CASE and OUTsource in spring 2010.

“We need to bring awareness to the needs of the GLBT community,” said Campus Suicide Prevention Coordinator Carrie Schurtz. “It (the event) is very timely given the recent increase in public awareness of completed suicides by people who self-identified as GLBT.”

The weeklong event beginning Monday, co-sponsored by UK-IN-CASE and the Counseling Center, features speakers and a community fair showcasing groups that assist with suicide prevention.

University of Rochester Professor Vince Silenzio will start the week with a free talk entitled “Suicide Prevention, Sexual Minorities and Social Networking” at 4 p.m. Monday in room 206 of the Student Center. Silenzio is a doctor, researcher and advocate specializing in suicide prevention among GLBT youth.

“Dr. Silenzio’s talk should be interesting because of the role social networking has played in the recent high-profile deaths of gay teens across the country,” Tina Bryant, a senior staff psychologist at the UK Counseling Center, said.

A Campus and Community Resource Fair will follow Silenzio’s speech, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Student Center room 206. The fair will feature groups and resources that can help with suicide prevention.

The UK Counseling Center’s Consultation and Psychological Services, UK-IN-CASE and the UK College of Medicine have joined forces to provide free mental health screenings from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday in the entryway of the William T. Young Library.

David Hanna, the chief clinical officer for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services for the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health Board, is giving a talk entitled “Identifying and Working with Patients at Risk for Suicide” from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. Friday in room 223 of the Multi-Disciplinary Building (the old College of Pharmacy Building).

The talk is geared toward UK health professional students, so only students in medical, pharmacy, nursing and physician assistant programs may attend. Hanna will address recognizing risk factors for suicide potential, simple strategies for discussing suicide risk with patients and resources available for someone considering suicide.

“I hope people realize that they can act and help each other and their loved ones,” Bryant said.