Hotline number: 423-425-CARE (2273)
- Sept. 23: 9-11 a.m.
- Sept. 28: 1-3 p.m.
- Sept. 22: Noon-1 p.m.
For information about scheduling a training or event for classes or departments, contact Tricia Henderson at email@example.com.
Tricia Henderson knows the subjects of mental health and suicide are not easy for a lot of people to talk about, so she wants to be at the forefront of promoting these discussions every day. But especially during September.
“September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and a lot of our programming is about opening up the conversation around mental health and suicide awareness and trying to connect people with resources, professionals and different organizations that can help them if there’s a mental health emergency. What we know in the field of suicide prevention is, the more we talk about it, the less it happens,” said Henderson, director of the Center for Student Wellbeing at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. “What we know in the field of suicide prevention is, the more we talk about it, the less it happens.
“A lot of people think if you talk about suicide, then you’re planting a seed or you’re giving someone an idea. But it’s the exact opposite. When someone is in their darkest moment and they think that death is the solution, that’s a hard place to come out of alone. If you show someone you care, if you show someone that they’re thought of and that people are concerned about them, that is providing them hope.”
As part of focusing on the prevention process, Henderson is an advocate for promoting UTC CARES, a new 24/7 helpline run by the UTC Counseling Center that has been created for students experiencing mental health emergencies or having suicidal thoughts.
The UTC CARES hotline number—423-425-CARE (2273)—provides students an opportunity to speak with a licensed professional counselor who can offer emotional support.
“Because this is our first semester having this resource, I’ve been trying to highlight that any student, anytime, anywhere can call this number if they have a mental health emergency, whether the student is on-campus or off-campus,” Henderson said.
“That number can be used for a variety of different issues and is kind of like a phone tree. It will take them to 911. It will take them to an online on-call counselor. It will take them to the Counseling Center. It will take them to Student Outreach and Support. Commuter students, parents, someone who might be concerned about a student, they all can use this line.”
Henderson said the Center for Student Wellbeing has several virtual training sessions available as part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month with “Step Up! for Mental Health” and “You Can Help A Student.” UTC students, faculty and staff are asked to show their support by wearing purple on Thursday.
Prevention awareness activities culminate Sept. 29 with the after-dark “Lighting the Way to Hope,” a free, virtual event recognizing those who have been lost to suicide and setting sights toward future work.
“What we’re trying to do around wearing purple and lighting the way to hope throughout the month is to continually have these conversations,” Henderson said. “It has to be friends and colleagues, faculty and staff members, students and roommates—all of us providing that early intervention and helping people in distress or having mental health problems cope.
“We have to break down the barriers and the stigma related to mental health. Once we do and people start talking about it, then the next piece of it is to start connecting people to the appropriate resources. The earlier we intervene when someone is thinking of suicide or having mental health problems, the more likely they are going to get help and start addressing some of the ways that they can cope and deal with what’s happening.”