In a joint email to the Elon University community Jan.5, President Leo Lambert and incoming President Connie Book informed students of changes that are coming to Elon regarding suicide prevention. In less than three years, four Elon students died by suicide, including two students last semester.
Suicide remains a national problem, as it is the second leading cause of death among young adults with more than 1,100 college students dying from suicide each year, according to the Center for Disease Control.
"Let us recommit to value each member of this special community, to offer kindness and compassion unsparingly, and especially to take care of ourselves and each other as we begin this new year together," said Lambert and Book.
Lambert and Book said they plan to take several steps to address this ongoing issue, starting with inviting Dr. Nance Roy, chief clinical officer of the JED Foundation, to visit campus this coming Friday. The JED Foundation is one of the nation's leading organizations that works with schools to promote mental health awareness and reduce suicide among its students.
"We look forward to Dr. Roy’s guidance and strategic counsel on ways Elon can build the healthiest environment possible, as many of our peer institutions have done with the assistance of the JED Foundation," Lambert and Book said in their email.
In addition, Lambert and Book said Elon will expand its Counseling Services by opening three new positions as counselors. These additional counselors will serve students through individual appointments, and will offer group counseling sessions as an option. Over the past few years, many have said the department has struggled to meet the needs of students.
Senior Alicia Leja believes this increase in counseling will be good for Elon.
"I think a lot of students do not realize the importance of self-awareness and care that can come from going to mental health services," said Leja. "It's a step in the right direction."
Beyond counseling, Lambert and Book said it will work on expanding other mental health service options. Jana Lynn Patterson, associate vice president of student life and dean of students, is working on a visual model that will help students access these different options.
Students of Elon University are also encouraged to complete QPR training, as this training gives students skills in preventing suicide. More than 650 Elon faculty, staff, and students have already completed the training program.
Mollie Monett, senior at Elon University, says she plans to complete the QPR training and is glad the University is making these changes.
"Mental health and suicide specifically is much too overlooked within universities," said Monett. "Changes need to happen and an open mind and open conversation is a good place to start."