Written By: Angelie Roche
On October 10-17, St. Mary’s College of Maryland(SMCM)’s Peer Health Educators will be hosting a “Stomp Out Stigma” 5K run/walk for suicide awareness. According to the SMCM website, the 5K is “meant to raise awareness of suicide on college campuses, decrease the stigma associated with conversations around suicide and mental health, and increase help-seeking behaviors by members of our community.” Along with many other events on campus, “Stomp Out Stigma”, which is usually hosted completely in-person, had to adapt to coronavirus-related changes. Instead of occuring on a single Saturday, the event will be open online for a week so participants can log their miles at their own convenience.
The 5K event has been going on for the past six years and means a lot to the entire SMCM community. Brandy Baggerly, the Peer Education Fellow, says its goal is to “get a healthy conversation started surrounding suicide awareness,” especially since suicide is the leading cause of death for people ages 15-34(CDC). Although statistics show that this is certainly an issue many college students face, it is not discussed often, leaving individuals to suffer in silence. According to the National Journal of Public Health, the stigma surrounding mental illnesses can present itself in many ways, from a “stoic” attitude to social isolation and, most importantly, a lack of awareness. These factors all play into students’ reluctance to seek help.
In 2018, a study by the Harvard Medical School found that as many as one in five college students reported thoughts of suicide, with minorities being particularly at risk. The author of this study, Dr. Cindy Liu, explained that college can be a “phase of life where young people are confronted with expectations from new relationships and living situations and other encounters that are stressful.” Though some students are able to adapt to these changes, others collapse under the anxiety they cause, and without a supportive community, are at risk for depression or other mental illnesses. With this in mind, it is important to reach out to those who are in need of support and “Stomp Out Stigma” is a great way to start. Baggerly says that participating in the 5K not only raises suicide awareness, but it shows solidarity to those who are struggling and provides space to start a conversation on suicide awareness. Whether or not we are aware of it, many students in college communities — St. Mary’s included — are suffering with mental illnesses, depression, and thoughts of suicide. With the existing stigma, it can be hard to educate yourself on ways to offer support to those around you, but a great way to start is to attend the “Stomp Out Stigma” 5K. For more information on how to participate, simply visit the Peer Health Educators’ Instagram @peerheathsmcm, find one of their flyers around campus or on InsideSMCM, or follow the link at http://tiny.cc/Stompout. Though the current dialogue is far from comfortable with topics pertaining to mental health, SMCM’s Peer Health Educators are continuing to seek ways to foster a supportive environment for everyone in our community.