Suicide is a topic that has been taboo in American culture for centuries. Suicide rates have increased, and in response, awareness and prevention needs have heightened, according to the MU Counseling Center.
Many non-profit organizations have been founded to help spread the word. John Bunten, a senior at Columbia College, is one of those founders. He created The Story of H.O.P.E. (Hope Opening People’s Eyes) on Feb. 1, 2011. The cause has been close to Bunten’s heart for years, because of his previous battle with depression and attempted suicide.
“I’ve dealt with depression since I was 14 years old,” Bunten said.
Bunten founded the organization to get into schools and speak to students who may be going through the same struggles.
The Story of H.O.P.E. launched SOS (Signs of Suicide), a program currently in use in schools across the country. SOS is designed to educate high school students and staff on suicide signs. They also began an annual 5k run/walk. In addition to these events and programs, The Story of H.O.P.E. sells t-shirts and wristbands to spread the message of awareness throughout the community.
“It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” Bunten said, referring to the act of suicide.
The University of Missouri is also taking steps to help prevent suicide. The MU Counseling Center is actively involved in suicide prevention. Mizzou Cares, the suicide prevention task force on campus, has been in service for several years. This task force is responsible for bringing speakers to campus to raise awareness of students and faculty. The Counseling Center also hosts training sessions for faculty and staff on warning signs of suicide and depression. Christy Hutton, a psychologist with the MU Counseling Center, said the program is heading in a good direction.
“In the past we have offered an eight-hour training course called Mental Health First Aid,” Hutton said. “This year, we are moving to a more interactive program, Campus Mental Health Responder. The training will provide a basic overview of mental health problems, signs and symptoms often associated with mental health problems including suicide, and how to effectively respond.”
This type of outreach to students and staff will take suicide awareness to an entirely new level.
“The Counseling Center seeks to raise awareness, decrease stigma, and encourage help seeking through a variety of events and collaborations with campus partners throughout the year,” Hutton said.
A common goal of both organizations is to eliminate the stigma that is a black cloud over the topic of suicide prevention. Bunten’s struggle with depression is just one of many examples of how dealing with the disease is a long-term battle. He is very open about his experiences. This openness is why The Story of H.O.P.E is looking into the possibility of speaking at schools in the Columbia and St. Louis areas.