Vigil provides opportunity to discuss suicide

President Neil Theobald stood among students and faculty Jan. 23 at the candlelit vigil. | Kara Milstein TTN
President Neil Theobald stood among students and faculty Jan. 23 at the candlelit vigil. | Kara Milstein TTN

Students gathered in the Founder’s Garden on the evening of Jan. 23 at a candlelit vigil to honor those who have committed suicide and those who have lost loved ones to suicide.

The event was hosted by Temple’s chapter of the Minority Association of Pre-medical Students, part of the Student National Medical Association, and featured a speech from President Theobald.

Connor Magura, a sophomore biology major, member of SNMA-MAPS and the organizer of the vigil, believes that the vigil is in keeping with the organization’s national mission.

“Our goal is to help educate … and serve our community,” he said.

The national chapter of SNMA-MAPS encourages its local chapters to design events about mental health.

“It’s something that is very important to everyone in the community,” Magura said.

During the event, information about depression, suicide and options available to students worried about themselves or loved ones was distributed by organizations like SNMA-MAPS and the Wellness Resource Center.

Theobald spoke to students as he also held a candle, telling a story of a family friend who had attempted suicide and the impact that it had on him. He chose not to use the podium or microphone provided.

“This was a woman who, as far as I knew, was living her dreams,” he said. “It made me think of all of you,” he told the crowd gathered in front of him.

Theobald said it was important to him and to the administration as a whole that students have a place to go if they are ever feeling depressed or suicidal.

“As things get more difficult throughout education … the stresses that all of you face, it really brought home to me how we need to provide support services to all of you [students],” Theobald said.

He also asked students to reach out to him if they feel there is anything Temple could do or improve on to make students feel like they have a safe place to go in times of need.

“There are people to talk to and I am so thankful for that,” Theobald said.

Representatives from the WRC spoke next, including researchers for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Campus Suicide Prevention Grant.

According to the WRC’s website, SAMHSA “leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.”

Ashley LaSala, SAMHSA grant manager at Temple, spoke at the event, saying the number of students who have considered suicide and attempted it at Temple is higher than the national university average.

“All of our students and staff really care about students’ health and well-being,” she said.

SAMHSA undergraduate research assistant Michael Kovich was also at the vigil. Kovich provided examples of warning signs of depression, including hopelessness and thoughts of worthlessness, and reminded students that they are surrounded with resources to help.

He also stressed the importance of recognizing the signs of depression in others and when immediate attention is necessary.

“Only as a community … can we help each other on this campus,” Kovich said.

SNMA-MAPS also collected money that will be donated to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Vince Bellino can be reached at vince.bellino@temple.edu

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