Caroline Ferguson (BBA ’19) is a Bauer College alumna and founder of Grateful & Co., a business with an online store for gratitude-themed lifestyle products that gives a portion of profits from each sale to suicide-prevention and mental health programs on college campuses.
Ferguson has a personal connection to the issue ― at age 9, she lost her father to suicide and has since made it her mission to understand the contributing factors that could lead someone to take their own life and to save those who might be considering suicide.
In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, we asked Ferguson to share her insight on how you can help join the cause.
This topic has not historically been an easy one for us to talk about ― as a university, as a city, as a country. Suicide sucks, and it dramatically impacts college students.
Suicide is the second highest cause of death amongst college students. Can you believe that? In the past 50 years, suicide rates for those between 15-24 years old has increased by over 200%. That means about once every two hours someone within this age range will commit suicide.
Fundamentally there’s a problem. As a suicide survivor ― I know and understand the immense pain associated with losing a loved one to suicide. As a little girl and again as a high school student and then again as a college student, losing loved ones to suicide is never ever easy. As an alumna from the University of Houston, I’ve made it a personal mission of mine to understand what you and I within our “average joe” capacities can do about making sure those around us are truly ok.
September is Suicide Prevention Month, and it’s the perfect time to go over what resources are available at the University of Houston and ways that you can become a resource to someone who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts.
The Counseling and Psychological Services Center (CAPS) at the University of Houston, led by the fearless Dr. Norma Ngo, is the hub for mental health services for the campus. The center offers daytime and after hours crisis intervention, essential skills workshops, one on one therapy, group counseling, and more. The team at CAPS consists of doctoral and masters level clinicians as well as advanced graduate trainees in counseling and clinical psychology.
According to the International Association of Counseling Services, there is a national standard that universities should be meeting when it comes to the ratio of counselors to students on campus. The ratio of which is 1 counselor should be available for every 1,500 students. Currently the University of Houston has 1 counselor available for every 2,728 students. CAPS, while a phenomenal and life-saving resource, depends completely on our amazing UH network to give back in order to grow and bridge the counselor to student ratio gap.
CAPS and their suite of mental health services offered to the student body at the University of Houston are made available 100% through generous and consistent donors that give. To give to CAPS and learn more about their impact on campus, you can visit them online at www.uh.edu/caps.
It’s OK to Ask
The biggest thing to remember if you have someone within your circle that you think may be dealing with suicidal thoughts is that it is always ok to ask. Specifically, it is always ok to be bold and ask whether or not your friend or peer has considered suicide. Along with being there and being present for those around us that are struggling with depression and anxiety, asking the hard questions and being intentional with wanting to understand and help can and is life-saving.
Also, remember most of the time, you and I are what I refer to as “average joes” when it comes to mental-health help. Unless you are a licensed, trained, mental health professional, it is always in your friend/colleague’s best interest that you help them get help with someone that is.
I like to think of being a proactive resource rather than a reactive resource. After losing my father as a little girl to suicide I desperately wanted to understand what I could do within my “average joe” capacity that could create positive impact in a world that is plagued so severely by suicide. What I learned is really powerful- three really powerful and specific things.
- We have to know and believe that we are loved.
- We have to know and believe that we are worthy and deserving of this life.
- We have to know and believe that we are seen- we can’t go through life feeling invisible.
You and I can begin today by being intentional about these three things. When we choose to be really intentional and bold with our appreciation and recognition of those around us that we love and care about, sometimes it’s just enough. Sometimes it’s just enough for our loved ones to stop and reconsider that yeah, they really do matter and deserve to be here.
You and I also have the power and responsibility of being resources to those around us that may be struggling with thoughts of suicide. It is so important that we continually educate ourselves to better understand what the signs are and the bold questions to ask our loved ones and colleagues that may be dealing with thoughts of suicide.
CAPS and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers great resources on what specifically to look for if you think someone close to you may be dealing with thoughts of suicide. For more information on those resources, read more here: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/
For more information on what I do and my passionate pursuit of ending college campus suicides, you can check out my gig by visiting www.gratefulandcompany.com