Mason offers options for mental health assistance and suicide prevention

The information presented in this article may be triggering for some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 for the support and assistance of a qualified advisor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

As part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, George Mason University mental health officials want to educate the campus community about suicide and mental health issues, allowing the Patriots to participate in suicide prevention, helping others in crisis and changing the conversation around suicide.

College brings the excitement of increased freedom as well as the potential for anxiety related to adjusting to life away from home, studying and defining one’s identity. These stressors can trigger anxiety and depression, as well as emotional distress. These feelings could lead to suicidal thoughts or actions, creating huge and potentially dangerous implications if help is not sought.

As COVID has begun to normalize conversations about mental health, public stigma around suicide can keep people from getting the help they need. A dangerous myth is that asking someone if they’re having suicidal thoughts will drive that person toward the behavior, says Jennifer Kahler, Director of Counseling and Psychology Services at Mason (CAPS).

“But it’s not,” Kahler said. When talking about suicide with an emphasis on overcoming ideas and using positive, hopeful and inspiring language, these conversations are very beneficial and can prevent suicide.

“Ask about suicide actually owrites the conversation so those thinking about suicide don’t feel so alone,” Mason said. psychology professor Christianne Esposito-Smythers, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Behavioral Health at Mason. “Often people hide their thoughts from others and may feel like no one will understand what they are going through. Asking others with warning signs about suicidal thoughts decreases the risk of suicidal actions.

Mason provides students with mental health resources and suicide prevention tools through a number of resources, including the MasonCARES Suicide Prevention Programa two-hour access control program designed to train faculty, staff and students on how to respond to people who may be experiencing distress and suicidal thoughts and guide them in seeking appropriate help through through CAPS.

If someone is displaying behaviors such as anxiety, expressing a lack of purpose, reporting feelings of being trapped or hopeless, not attending class or withdrawing from activities, experiencing mood swings, etc., these may be warning signs -suicide runners.

“Training is one of the key components of suicide prevention at Mason,” kahler said. “MasonCARES educates faculty, students and staff on how to support students in distress by teaching them the right questions to ask, what to say and when to help. If individuals have been trained and recognize the concerning signs, tell the student something, and contact CAPS, it could make all the difference in getting help for that student that they wouldn’t otherwise get.

CAPS offers students immediate free assistance; there is no billing office and no insurance is required. First appointments are virtual, and providers are working with students to determine their preferred method of treatment moving forward.

Any assistance students receive from CAPS is confidential and separate from academic records, Kahler added.

chart for suicide prevention

Another option for students is Mason’s Psychological Services Center, where evidence-based, accessible, affordable, and culturally appropriate therapy and screening services are provided by Mason graduate students under clinical supervision. Other services include an emotional support line and short-term intervention sessions.

One of the objectives of the center is to train clinicians in evidence-based treatment, which incorporates suicide screening. This type of treatment is essential because it helps individuals “become their own therapist, with lifelong skills such as the ability to effectively problem solve, evaluate thoughts, manage strong emotions, and communicate in a way that others will listen,” Esposito-Smythers said.

If you are concerned about your ability to keep yourself or others safe, contact CAPS Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday between 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. or Wednesday between noon and 4:30 p.m. at 703-993-2380.

For after-hours mental health crises, call 703-993-2380 and select option 1 to connect with a crisis counselor.

Other suicide prevention or mental health resources can be found on the After hours crisis support page.