The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Putting a cap on suicide

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Texas A&M CAPS held their fifth annual Suicide Awareness Walk during National Suicide Prevention week on Tuesday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. in Rudder Plaza. 

The fifth annual “Not Another Aggie” Suicide Awareness Month began with a Sept. 7 kick-off in Rudder Plaza, the first of many events this month to raise awareness and honor victims of suicide.

The event, hosted by Texas A&M’s Counseling & Psychological Services, or CAPS, featured over a dozen tables for students to connect with campus and local resources, several speakers and a candlelight walk through campus. CAPS staff and volunteers running the event spoke about their goals and the support structure that exists in the community for struggling students. 

Santana Simple, licensed professional counselor and assistant director of the Suicide Awareness & Prevention Office, or SAPO, said A&M’s Suicide Awareness Month was started by a group of students who wanted to spread awareness about victims of suicide connected to them personally. Since then, the students have graduated, but SAPO has continued its events, evolving it into the “Not Another Aggie” campaign.

“It’s a statement of our stance,” Simple said. “Our goal is to have not another Aggie suffer alone, be feeling isolated, have nothing to do about it and to not lose another Aggie to suicide. We find students really connect to that and offer their support.”

Counseling services at CAPS are intended to be relatively short-term, helping students establish goals to work toward and structure treatment plans around, Simple said. CAPS sees itself as the starting point for a student’s journey who may need longer-term support, or just alternative strategies for self-care and coping methods.

“I feel like a connector,” Simple said. “Students are passionate about suicide prevention. They care, they just often don’t have an avenue to show that. For me, it just makes me happy to be able to provide that connection.”

Among the offices within CAPS and other organizations participating in the event were the Aggie Mental Health Ambassadors, Aggies Reaching Aggies, the LGBTQ+ Pride Center and HelpLine, the after-hours mental health service where volunteer staffers provide crisis intervention, peer support and referrals to callers, according to the CAPS website.

“HelpLine started in January of 1995,” HelpLine director Susan Vavra said. “Everything they do for us is unpaid, which is quite impressive. They have to go through a 55-hour training class the week before classes start, so these [volunteers in Rudder Plaza] are some of the products who made it through that class successfully.”

One volunteer, psychology senior Maya Rasheed, who is interested in becoming a professional counselor for anxiety and depression, said she finds herself using skills learned at the HelpLine in her personal life with family and friends. 

“Something we learn is active listening skills,” Rasheed said. “Say a friend calls you who is going through a breakup, what you’re there for is to listen to them talk about how they’re feeling and to be supportive through your presence. We get callers with all kinds of identities and concerns, so we have to be open to getting them through whatever it may be.”

For anyone facing mental health concerns, suicidal ideation or dealing with school or relationship problems, the HelpLine is open from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m., Monday through Friday, and is open 24 hours on weekends.

“Our slogan is ‘Call, talk, we listen,’ and that’s what we’re here for,” Rasheed said.

Ahead of the 8 p.m. candlelight walk on Tuesday, the event featured three speakers who shared their personal connections to suicide and messages of their hope: Amy Mulroy, practicing psychiatrist, Heather Lottering, volunteer with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and Karla Alvarez, peer educator for Aggies Reaching Aggies.

Upcoming events for Suicide Awareness Month include a four-week walking challenge, created in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension to participate in the Walk Through Texas History program, Simple said. Multiple days in late September will feature Coffee with a Counselor, where CAPS staff will meet students informally at different campus Starbucks locations and provide them coffee. 

Additionally, a variety of training and workshops will be hosted through different offices and organizations around campus, such as the Sept. 15 Aggies Reaching Aggies Gatekeeper Training led by students, for students. All registrations and event details are available online.

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