AUSTIN, Texas — To further college students’ education about suicide prevention and mental health resources, The University of Texas at Austin led a statewide task force to create an educational video on suicide prevention. The video is available for use by all colleges and universities in Texas.
The impetus for the video was a new state law requiring that suicide prevention and mental health information be shared with all entering college students. The university will show the video to incoming freshman and transfer students at UT Orientation this summer. These students will also receive a link to the video via email.
The legislation stems from the efforts of Mark and Kathleen Walker, who began work on the bill with the Texas Legislature after their son Lee, a UT Austin student, died by suicide. The Texas Suicide Prevention Council reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Texas college students.
“After losing our only child, we wanted something positive to come out of it. Our goal was to encourage students to notice the warning signs of suicide in their peers. We also wanted students to know that there are resources available to help them if they are experiencing thoughts of suicide. We hope that the new law will help save lives,” said Mark Walker.
"I am grateful to have worked with the Walkers and other concerned families, as well as mental health organizations and higher education institutions to pass this bill. The resulting beautiful, easily adaptable video will help ensure students statewide receive valuable information about available suicide prevention resources. I am optimistic that our taskforce partners' efforts will help save student lives and prevent families from suffering the grief of losing a child to suicide," said State Senator José Rodríguez, who authored the bill in the Texas Senate.
The video takes a bystander intervention approach. Students speak directly to other students about noticing the early warning signs and intervening with those who may be struggling with a mental health issue or contemplating suicide. Task force members said they focused on bystander intervention because of those college students who are suicidal and who reach out for help, 67 percent tell a friend first. The video’s message complements the efforts of BeVocal, the university’s bystander intervention initiative.
“We want students to know that we are here for them; they are not alone. We have resources that can help. This video will help our students better understand warning signs and refer their peers in need to our services,” said Dr. Chris Brownson, director of the university’s Counseling and Mental Health Center.
Brownson led the task force in conjunction with the Texas University Counseling Center Director’s Association (TUCCDA). Task force members represented public and private higher education institutions from across the state.
To download the video, click here.