Note from the writer – The following article deals with the topic of suicide and may cause difficult emotions, but these are conversations we should have.
Incident at 808 West
Authorities from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office responded to a welfare call around 8 p.m. on Feb. 7.
A call came in at 7:59 p.m. from a resident at 808 West Apartments. The caller was visiting their friend, another resident at 808, who had a gun and appeared to pose a danger to others and himself. Authorities arrived shortly after 8 p.m. and began talking to the armed resident where they discovered a type of shotgun. The armed resident eventually discharged the weapon into himself.
Responders administered what aid they could, but the resident ultimately died from suicide. Multiple first responder vehicles were present on the property for hours that evening.
808 West released a statement the following afternoon shortly after 3 p.m. that described the incident as isolated and involving only one resident. The incident did not involve assault, burglary, threats, or danger to residents. 808 West also said that if there is a danger to residents, it is their policy to alert residents as promptly as possible.
A week after the statement, 808 West sent a poster informing residents about a memorial of life held for the victim. The memorial took place Saturday, Feb. 19 at 9 p.m. at the 808 West clubhouse.
While it can be difficult finding time to tend to your needs while juggling all other aspects of your life, we need to.
Kellie Monteith, associate vice chancellor of Health and Wellness, looks at health in a holistic sense.
It’s hard to find balance, but Monteith encourages stimulating your needs. She commented on how your physical, mental, and intellectual needs relate. Tied with those are various aspects of health and overall wellness, including environmental and spiritual health.
We understand it can be difficult finding the time to satisfy your needs, but we would like to encourage it. Consider new places to study, such as the terrace at Apodaca or near the river running behind the track field. Check out engage.wcu.edu for either arts and entertainment in Bardo or the University Auditorium or fun Last Minute Productions events. WCU has nearly seven miles of trail which could stimulate environmental health.
If you consider outdoor, physical, or other recreation, do so mindfully and responsibly.
Resources on campus
WCU’s campus theme for this academic year is mental health. The campus has held various events in efforts to promote this. Two upcoming events include the Out of the Darkness campus walk on March 26 from 4 to 6 p.m. and the Men’s Mental Health concert hosted by the brothers of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia from 5 to 7 p.m., also on March 26.
An obvious resource is Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), a mental health and wellness resource that is free to enrolled students. CAPS offers self-help resources, specialized one-on-one therapy with a counselor, group-guided therapy to work through similar problems together, and virtual, telepsychiatry services through grants with a provider in North Carolina.
Kim Gorman, director of CAPS, stressed that CAPS does not turn away students.
“If a student is asking for an appointment, we will make that appointment, either that day or, if it is late in the day and it is not an emergency, we will see them within the next 24 hours. If it is an emergency, we will see that student that day,” Gorman told The Carolinian via email. The appointment may be a follow-up to ensure you are doing okay and lay the path for scheduling future appointments, but students will hopefully be directed in the appropriate way as soon as possible.
If a student is in a crisis, they can visit Bird 225 for an emergency appointment Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or they can call a Crisis Clinician by calling (828) 227-7469 and pressing zero at the prompt for after-hours assistance.
Gorman said CAPS then assesses what steps to take with students. CAPS does not do weekly appointments, which they are upfront about. If a student needs that frequency of appointments, CAPS will help refer them to external mental care providers.
Gorman concluded the email with, “CAPS is able to provide services for most of the presenting concerns students have. But we will refer to a specialist if that is needed for a client.”
Gorman also specified that many resource numbers are included on the back of student CatCards, including the number for mental health emergencies, UPD, and the former Suicide Prevention Hotline, which is now connected to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.
Mental Health First Aid training will continue to be offered in the spring and following fall semesters.
Lyndsey Conway, president of Out of the Darkness, a suicide awareness and prevention organization on campus, encourages open communication and safe spaces for those who may need to talk to someone. Conway also says to trust your gut.
“It is really important that we as a society begin to no longer treat mental health as a taboo topic that is ‘too sensitive’ to be brought up,” Conway said.
While we need to normalize talking to people and opening up, she also said it is important to understand you are not your friends’ therapist.
She says there is a difference between being there and taking the place of a mental health professional.
You must recognize your own boundaries and take care of your mental health. If being a resource takes a toll on your own mental health, take appropriate measures, whether that be referring somebody to an additional source or seeking your own help.
Out of the Darkness serves to be a safe space for all on campus. They hold tabling events to inform Catamounts about resources for help and raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. One fundraiser taking place the week after spring break will be the annual bake sale.
The Out of the Darkness Campus Walk will take place Sunday, March 26 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the University Fountain. More information, as well as ways to join Out of the Darkness, can be found on their engage page. Just visit engage.wcu.edu and search “Out of the Darkness”. You can also reach out to Conway at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Conway finished by saying that crisis talks “really [do] get better once we begin to normalize mental health and talk about it directly. One should never feel like they have to suffer in silence.” This is an encouragement to find a safe place to talk to somebody.
An additional resource is the Student Concern Report, available under www.wcu.edu/experience. This anonymous form allows the opportunity to inform members of Student Affairs about individuals who are of concern.
Monteith oversees the Student Concern Response Team and reports. She wants the main response to be getting people the best care or resource they may need.
A Student Concern report is an anonymous form anybody may fill out to bring attention to the well-being of a student at WCU. It can be found under WCU’s Health and Wellness page, just navigate to the button that asks if you are concerned about a student.
Once filled out, the concern response is sent to Monteith who triages them to determine the best response. She will follow up relatively soon.
If a student needs help, Monteith wants them to get it, however, the response to the concern report may not be immediate. If you are in a period of crisis, dial (828) 227-7469 and press “0”, which will connect you to WCU’s crisis counselor who will work to take the most appropriate action to connect you with resources.
Some off-campus resources can be found on The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s website under a dropdown menu titled “Get Help.”
The website seizetheawkward.org provides resources to help have those difficult conversations as well as advice for managing your own mental health.
Individuals suffering from a crisis can also dial or text 9-8-8 to reach the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, a relatively new hotline formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
The lifeline’s website, https://988lifeline.org/, says it provides “free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the United States.”
The 988 Lifeline’s website also boasts de-escalation, saying less than 2% of calls result in emergency services.
NPR reported many individuals experiencing crisis end up calling 911, which was not meant to be that resource. These 911 calls can lead to hospitalizations, long waits for care at facilities, or interactions with law enforcement officers that may result in “tragedy or trauma.” NPR also reported the goal of 988 is to reduce these interactions with law enforcement officers and connect people in crisis to help immediately.
Opponents of 988 worry calling the line may result in involuntary hospitalizations, which can increase traumatic experiences and suicidal tendencies after “care”.
A different NPR article reported involuntary hospitalizations and law enforcement interactions may occur if one is at imminent risk and may act on a plan to commit suicide, but if one is seen as unlikely to act on it, it is unlikely these interactions or hospitalizations may occur. That article also listed additional, smaller resources, near the end
The number for the 24-hour Western North Carolina crisis line is (888) 315-2880.
A digital campaign called #BeThe1To calls on us to support each other. On its website, www.BeThe1To.com, the campaign encourages people to be the ones to support others and help save lives. The website provides five steps to help individuals be the one. The five steps are to ask, be there, help keep others safe, help connect others with resources, and follow up.
Ask others how they are doing, what they may be going through, and how you can help, then listen to their responses. Listen to their sources of distress and also listen to their reasons for staying alive. The website says not to promise secrecy as there may be times you need to let others know, such as if one is filing a student concern form.
To be there, follow up on any promises you make to the individual in crisis. If you are able to, support individuals in crisis so they are not alone.
The Western Carolinian would like to encourage you to talk to your friends and others, as well as take steps for your own mental health.
Try to balance aspects of your life. Take positive steps for your intellectual and social life, and don’t forget about self-care and self-love. Ask somebody how they are doing, see a friend you haven’t seen in a while, talk to a stranger. If you haven’t tried some of WCU’s resources, like recreation or group therapy, consider trying them. If you’ve tried CAPS and it didn’t work, consider trying with a different counselor. Not everybody will be a perfect match.
If you or somebody you know is in crisis, there are resources available.
Please remember you are not alone.