Walk, events shine light on suicide prevention

The parents of Alejandra Ares, freshman political science major, and her sister Adriana Ares Trespalacios, assistant director of the Graham Center, were married for 25 years, had three successful children and lived comfortably. They had what some would call a perfect family. But on Dec. 27, 2013, their lives changed dramatically when they discovered their father, Angel, had died by suicide.

The Ares family; pictured L-R: (upper) mother Dulce M. Ares, father Angel Ares, (lower) son Angel L. Ares, daughters Adriana A. Trespalacios and Alejandra Ares.

The Ares family; pictured L-R: (upper) mother Dulce M. Ares, father Angel Ares, (lower) son Angel L. Ares, daughters Adriana A. Trespalacios and Alejandra Ares.

“Ever since then, me and my sister have made it a point to advocate for this cause,” said Alejandra. “We learned that this happens every 13 minutes and that there’s not enough attention toward suicide. It’s a problem that can be solved.”

Hoping to bring attention to mental health issues, FIU will host a series of events during its Suicide Prevention Awareness week.

On Saturday, Mar. 21, the Suicide Prevention Awareness Club and Sigma Kappa, will host The Out of the Darkness Campus Walk. The walk will take place at the Modesto A. Maidique Campus and aims to raise awareness and funds that allows the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to invest in new research, create educational programs – and support friends and family of those who have passed away due to suicide.

Click here to register for the Out of the Darkness Campus Walk.

“Some people might find it controversial to talk about it or feel that it’s a religious sin,” said Adriana, who is also the chair for the Walk. “We want people to talk about it. Awareness and prevention is the goal.”

Later in the week, Counseling and Psychological Services will host its Suicide Prevention Outreach event, The Doubtfire Face Challenge. Since Robin Williams’ death by suicide, fans and advocates have used his story as a way to open a dialogue about depression and mental illness. The Doubtfire Challenge, inspired by the famous “hello” scene in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, asks people to cover their face in shaving or whipped cream and recreate the scene in an online video. Advocates hope that the videos will be shared on social media, and help raise awareness and funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The event will be held on the GC Lawn on March 25 and at the Wolfe University Center on March 27.

“Although suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students, claiming the lives of more than 1,100 students each year, research indicates that the rate of suicide among college students is lower than the rates of suicide among same-aged peers who do not attend college,” said Maria Jose Rendon, psychology intern at Counseling and Psychological Services. “Research has also found that commuter students; older students; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students; and international students are groups that face a higher risk for suicide. CAPS has services tailored specifically for LGBTQ students, in collaboration with Multicultural Programs and Services, and the international student circle.”

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, there were a reported 41,149 deaths by suicide in 2013. They maintain that while suicide is still a leading cause of death, it is preventable. The group urges people to talk openly and honestly about mental illness and seek treatment.

CAPS offers many programs regarding suicide prevention throughout the year. Students who are experiencing suicidal thoughts can go to CAPS for a walk-in consultation or request an appointment. There is an on-call clinician to see and help students according to their needs. Free individual, couple and group psychotherapy services are offered to enrolled students and can benefit students with different mental health issues as well.

How to help a friend who may be at risk for suicide:

  1. Listen, provide support
  2. Do not invalidate the reasons for which they are feeling suicidal
  3. Remove firearms or other means of self-harm (pills or weapons)
  4. If drunk, help him or her regain sobriety as quickly as possible. Alcohol and drugs reduce our survival instinct.
  5. Ask them to commit to get help
  6. Bring the person to CAPS, to a trusted professor, administrator, or resident life member who can connect them to on-campus services
  7. If you don’t feel confident about helping them out, call 911, campus security, or a suicide hotline for advice.

Suicide Prevention Resources

  • CAPS (MMC): 305-348-2277
  • CAPS (BBC): 305-919-5305
  • University Police (MMC): 305-348-5911
  • University Police (BBC): 305-919-5911
  • Switchboard of Miami: 305-358-HELP (4357)
  • Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention, Inc.: (954) 384-0344 or (954) 383-1384
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK

In an emergency, always call 9-1-1 immediately.

For help coping with a loss, CAPS counselors are available. Help is also available at the Children’s Bereavement Center at (305) 668-4902.