How do you change a community? Many of us on this campus have gone through some sort of leadership training that tells us that we have the power to change our community, that we have the means necessary to create positive change if we apply our strengths and ideas to a cause we are passionate about. However, I have come to the conclusion that the best way for widespread change to occur in a community is through conversation. The best ideas in the world do not come from a person sitting in a room alone staring at a wall, but rather from discussing issues with peers and superiors. The issues I wish to discuss in this brief article are eating disorders and suicide prevention.
Here are some quick statistics about our beloved campus that I am sure many of you have heard before, but they are worth hearing many times due to their gravity. Since 2010, TCU has lost six students to suicide, more than double the national average. In 2012-2013, 158 TCU students reported suicide ideation to a health care professional on campus, but this number is drastically underreported and is estimated to be closer to 1000. Nationally, college campuses report that 5 percent of their students report eating disorders, while more than 8 percent of TCU students have reported eating disorders. Furthermore, the TCU Counseling Center estimates that more than 25 percent of eating disorders and body image concerns are currently unreported. These are the facts, and they are why change is absolutely necessary.
What is happening now? Please do not view this article as a claim that our community is doing nothing, but rather there are several organizations and initiatives that are actively addressing these issues on campus. Please do not see this article as my claiming to champion either of these causes, for there have been many individuals who have come before me, have done and are currently doing much more than I could ever hope to accomplish for these causes. Many of you have seen the posters for the R U OK? Campaign currently underway as part of the TCU Hope Initiative Program, which seeks to encourage students to get help as well as recognize the signs of depression in themselves and their friends. Students, faculty, administrators and staff can also receive training in this area, known as Question-Persuade-Refer (QPR) training. In the next few weeks, all Frog Camp facilitators, Connections mentors and Rho Gammas will receive this training.
In the area of eating disorders, organizations such as iAMBliss are making great strides. iAMBliss raises money for the Annie Bowe Treatment Fund and Project Bliss, which provide community-based residential treatment of eating and life issues. A couple weeks ago, SGA was able to send seven students to Washington, D.C. to lobby along with other Big 12 schools. While some of our focus was on federal grants such as Pell Grants, we were also able to discuss the issue of mental health, including suicide prevention and eating disorders. I am not claiming that we were any more successful in this aspect than anyone before us, but what was clear was these conversations are occurring on a national level. There are many other organizations working on these issues, but one thing they all have in common is discussion.
What can you do? You could join or support an organization or initiative that is addressing these issues, which I highly recommend, but we can all engage in discussion. Discussion around campus is the next step for progress in that we must change the negative connotation surrounding eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, and mental health in general. By engaging in discussion, we can negate that negative connotation and encourage individuals to seek help. Help is available on this campus, and our counseling center has some statistics that they can be proud of in that 80 percent of students who report suicide ideation are successfully treated on campus without a referral to an off-campus counselor. 79 percent of students who engage in treatment on campus report a reduction in thoughts of suicide, with over 73 percent reporting that they no longer have suicidal thoughts. If this article does anything, please let it at least lead to a single discussion. Organizations and initiatives such as R U OK? and iAMBliss have started the conversation. It is now our role as the student community to actively engage in discussion.
Ryan Tiglas is the SGA Speaker of the House.