NSU Counseling Services and SGA encourages students to participate in Suicide Prevention Awareness events


Rebecca Boone

On Sept. 12, 2022, Northwestern State University of Louisiana’s Counseling Services hosted a candlelight vigil in light of Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, opening the space to talk about experiences related to suicide.

On Sept. 12, 2022, Northwestern State University of Louisiana’s Counseling Services hosted a candlelight vigil in light of Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, opening the space to talk about experiences related to suicide.
NSU Counseling Services will also be hosting a Suicide Prevention and Awareness 5K run on Sept. 22, 2022.
Elizabeth Flores, an intern at NSU Counseling Services, supports the importance of suicide awareness and prevention. According to Flores, it is important to talk about suicide in public and privately.
“The topic has been taboo and stigmatized for far too long, and talking about it helps break that barrier that stigma continues to hold,” Flores said. “Some individuals feel alone in their pain and struggles, and talking about it, informs them that resources are available and there are individuals who will listen.”
According to Flores, starting a conversation about mental health could save a life.
“My ability to use my voice and advocate for those who struggle with mental health challenges focuses on the importance of this challenging topic. My hope is to reach as many people as possible to reduce the stigma,” Flores said.
The purpose of suicide awareness and prevention events on campus is to encourage students and the community to feel more comfortable talking openly about mental health.
“With small changes comes progress. Suicide is preventable,” Flores said.
The candlelight vigil is an annual event that occurs every September at NSU.
This year, NSU Counseling Services partnered with the NSU Student Government Association to further spread suicide awareness to the student body.
“The process of planning takes a team to do. Everyone in the counseling center is involved, and this year we have partnered with SGA, which has increased participation,” Flores said.
On behalf of SGA, the candlelight vigil began with a speech from Mary Scruggs, junior strategic communications major and SGA senator.
“I am going to read a resolution that the SGA created to spread awareness and show support for Suicide Awareness month. Just because the month ends, does not mean we stop advocating for those struggling with mental health. We continue to fight,” Scruggs said.
Scruggs shared her personal struggles and hopes to help those around her in their struggles with mental health and suicide.
“I personally have struggled with mental health for most of my life. However, I have family members and friends that have been impacted because of suicide,” Scruggs said. “Speaking on difficult topics, such as suicide and mental health, is the only way we learn and spread awareness.”
Scruggs continued in her speech by inviting people to continue to speak out year-round.
“My hope is that we can help ease the pain of people who are struggling. We have the power to change lives. We have the power to make an impact. We have the power to be intentionally kind,” Scruggs said. “Kind thoughts lead to kind words. Kind words lead to kind actions. Kind actions are what remind us why life is so beautiful and worth living. Too many bright lights have been put out due to a suicide.”
Members of NSU Counseling Services and the student body in attendance stood in a circle on Seven Oaks Stage. Following Scruggs’ speech, an open forum was left for participants to share their experiences with suicide and a moment of silence to honor those we have lost.
“Our NSU community is on the right track, but there is always room for improvement,” Scruggs said.
Claire Meyer, clinical psychology master’s student intern at the NSU Counseling Center, attended the Candlelight Vigil and agrees that NSU is headed in the right direction.

“The topic of suicide is becoming less taboo as mental health awareness becomes more commonplace in places like social media, college campuses, and discussions among friends and family,” Meyer said. “Hopefully, this trend continues, and individuals who might be struggling with suicidal thoughts will feel comfortable reaching out for help.”

Meyer wants all students to know they are not alone and there is always help available.

“I would love for these events to encourage students to reach out to friends, family or make an appointment at the NSU Counseling Center on campus if they are struggling with suicidal thoughts, or really any sort of mental health difficulties. We are here to help! No one should be ashamed to reach out if they are in crisis,” Meyer said.

The NSU Counseling Center offers a suicide prevention training called QPR Gatekeeper Training for Suicide Prevention that is always available to students.
“QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer; it teaches participants about suicide warning signs and how to intervene gently by asking questions, persuading the person to receive assistance, and referring them to mental health services,” Flores said.
NSU Counseling Services is located on the third floor of the Student Union in room 305. Students, faculty and staff can call NSU Counseling Services at (318) 357-5621. To speak with a counselor after hours, contact the NSU University Police Department at 318-357-5431.