Walking out of the library after a slew of intense studying at 8 p.m. last week, I had no idea what to expect.
Would I witness masses of students with tear-filled eyes, or a counselor listing grave statistics about our generation? Whatever awaited me in the forum last week, I had mentally prepared. I braced myself. But in the midst of checking my agenda and completing endless assignments, I missed it.
On Sept. 10, Oklahoma Christian University student Jordan Santos led the campus in a walk and candlelight devotional recognizing World Suicide Prevention Day. Though I just barely missed the event, the crowd gathered in the forum was enough to lift my mood.
I saw members of all clubs, faculty and people in all walks of life gathered together for a common cause. In this country’s current tumultuous atmosphere, this scene is rare and beautiful.
During this unprecedented time of illness and national tension, college students must look out for one another. Especially during the ages of quarantine, I believe checking up on one’s mental health is equally important as paying attention to one’s physical health.
Between my involvement in extracurricular activities, finding a job in this unpredictable market and attempting to turn in all of my school work on time, I understand taking care of my mental health is essential to maintaining my sanity. College students are under immense stress constantly. With the pandemic on top of our average stress levels, it is imperative that we find ways to cope.
According to the American Physiological Association, “Anxiety is the top presenting concern among college students (41.6 percent), followed by depression (36.4 percent) and relationship problems (35.8 percent).” The association also states “Ninety-five percent of college counseling center directors surveyed said the number of students with significant psychological problems is a growing concern in their center or on campus.”
The Oklahoma Christian community is not immune to these statistics.
This campus has not had an easy year. Personally, I have also experienced the weight of unexpected loss within the past 365 days. If I have learned anything from these experiences, it is this: grief cannot tell time.
This community still grieves.
This campus must continue to talk about uncomfortable topics like suicide. When it comes to mental health, preventative measures are essential. Encourage your family members and friends to go to counseling when necessary. Do not feel ashamed to go to counseling yourself.
Jordan Santos, the Kappa president, helped to plan the candlelight devotional and suicide prevention walk. In an interview with the Talon he said he “hopes that people think about how they treat other people, think about loving other people actively and think about how their actions can impact people around them.”
I could not agree more. I grew up in a community where committed suicides by people under the age of 18 occurred almost yearly. In high school, I lost classmates in this way. Other than the empty chair and shift in mood for the weeks following these unexpected deaths, I remember feeling the incesscant normalcy of these losses.
Last semester, I felt the Oklahoma Christian community uniting in a way it never had. We forgot about politics and our differences, and we prioritized kindness above all else. I hope this community can continue a legacy of kindness.
Profess kindness, constantly. Though we wear masks, smile at people when you pass them in the hallway. Engage your peers in real, open and honest conversations. Above all, I hope we love each other despite our differences. The truth is, we never know how our words and actions can affect another person.