Texas Universities Collaborate to Create Suicide Prevention Video

A task force of university experts in suicide prevention banded together on creating a video that shares how students can help friends or family who might be suicidal.

by / April 22, 2016 0
Screenshot from the video on the UT Austin Division of Student Affairs' YouTube channel

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for all college students, according to Suicide.org, and those in Texas are no exception: Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students in the state, the Texas Suicide Prevention Council reports.

So to help save lives, Texas colleges and universities banded together to create a video that educates their communities on how to help friends and family who may be contemplating suicide. 

The University of Texas at Austin led the statewide task force in response to a 2015 state law that goes into effect this fall. SB 1624 requires general academic teaching institutions to make incoming students aware of mental health and suicide prevention services and the early warning signs that someone could be suicidal. They can share this information through live presentations, online programs or videos.

This legislation came about after the 2014 suicide of Lee Walker, who had just finished his first year at the University of Texas at Austin, The Dallas Morning News reported. His parents pushed for legislative action that could help universities prevent more suicides, and Sen. José Rodríguez responded by writing SB 1624. 

After the law passed, suicide prevention experts from large and small universities across the state collaborated on a video that was released Thursday, April 21.

"We got a lot of good minds together in the same room and put all of our efforts and interests into one good product rather than everyone being out on their own," said Chris Brownson, director of the Counseling and Mental Health Center at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Each campus will use the video in different ways, such as facilitating conversations after watching the video at an orientation session. Others in freshman classes may watch it together with their professors, Brownson said.

At the University of Texas at Austin, freshmen and transfer students will see the video during orientation this summer and receive an email with a link to the video so they can watch it again later. The university already has a suicide prevention program called Be That One and a bystander intervention program called BeVocal, so this video represents another piece of larger efforts to educate the campus community.

Instead of targeting suicidal students, the video uses a bystander intervention approach designed to help students learn to recognize when friends and loved ones may struggle with suicidal thoughts and how they can step in, Brownson said. Because everyone is a bystander, this approach will hit home for more students and may even help them later on if they do become suicidal. Some of the warning signs to watch for include isolation, sleeping all the time and saying things like, "soon this will all be over."

"By teaching people these kinds of things to look out for, you have now all of a sudden a community of people who are watching out for and caring for each other," Brownson said.

Tanya Roscorla Former Managing Editor

Tanya Roscorla covered ed tech from 2009-2017.