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CSU Candlelight Of Hope Vigil To Raise Suicide Awareness

Published: October 15, 2014

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Twenty-three California State University campuses have been invited to join together on Tuesday, Oct. 21, to host a CSU-wide Candlelight of Hope vigil to raise awareness around a heavily stigmatized topic—college student suicide—which is the second leading cause of death among this age group. The CSULB event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. near the Maxson Plaza fountain in front of Brotman Hall.

Approximately 1,100 college students die each year by suicide and many more think about it. The candlelight event will offer campus communities an opportunity to show unity and give hope to those who may be struggling through a hard time and susceptible to depression or suicidal thoughts.

Participants will be provided with a candle to turn an ordinary paper bag into an extraordinary luminaria and have the opportunity to write a message or decorate bags to remember someone affected by suicide.

First hosted by San Jose State University in fall 2012, other institutions are continuing to bring it back on campus for a third year and a couple of UCs also will be involved this year.

“This will be the second year that we participate in the CSU Candlelight of Hope. Last year, we had over 600 students, staff, faculty and administrators stop by to create their own messages of hope,” said Jane Duong, the coordinator of Project OCEAN (On Campus Emergency Assistance Network) at Counseling and Psychological Services. “There was a strong sense of community as we witnessed many students and other staff members who were once strangers come together to share conversations of similar experiences on the struggles of having a mental illness or knowing a loved one who has been impacted by suicide. The event provided a safe space for diverse members of our campus community to express support and encouragement to one another in hope for healing.

“Whether students are participating in or passing by our event, we want students to know there is hope for those who may be struggling with different forms of hardship and that there is help available on our campus,” she added. “Project OCEAN is here to support our students, staff and faculty by providing resources and increasing knowledge of issues related to mental health.”

Along with CSULB, participating universities include CSU San Bernardino, CSU Monterey Bay, Cal Maritime, San Diego State, San Jose State, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Santa Cruz and UCLA.

The campuses were grantees of the 2012-14 California Mental Health Services Act (CalMHSA), Prop. 63. It is one of several Prevention and Early Intervention initiatives implemented by CalMHSA, an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. CalMHSA operates services and education programs on a statewide, regional and local basis.

The Candlelight of Hope vigil on campus will be hosted by CSULB’s Project OCEAN, which was established in September 2008 and funded by a three-year federal grant with the mission of encouraging help-seeking behaviors and suicide prevention. Through the two-year CalMHSA Grant, Project OCEAN returned to CSULB from July 2012-June 2014. Based on the impact of OCEAN’s work on campus and student voices in supporting the continuation of Project OCEAN, CSULB has made the decision to institutionalize and fund OCEAN as a permanent program through Student Services as of July. Project OCEAN activities are designed to educate the campus on suicide prevention and promote a climate that reduces stigma associated with mental health and encourages students to seek help when needed.

For more information, visit the Project OCEAN website.

–Shayne Schroeder