Cal U's dance ensemble, faculty and staff present a message of hope and awareness for the prevention of suicide.
Cal U Dance Ensemble members perform March 26.
A moving presentation, telling statistics and sound advice blended when the Cal U Dance Ensemble and the Student Wellness Center partnered to advocate for the prevention of suicide.
“You Matter: A Suicide Prevention Presentation” was held in the morning and evening on March 26 in the Natali Performance Center.
Donations were accepted for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention of Western Pennsylvania.
Prior to the performances, several Cal U faculty members and students from the Dance Ensemble spoke.
Diane Eperthener Buffington, who teaches dance and psychology, started the event by citing some telling statistics from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Council for Exceptional Children:
In Pennsylvania suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 15 to 34
In 2017, 47,173 Americans lost their lives by suicide, an average of 129 per day and one every 12 minutes. Worldwide, there’s one death every 40 seconds.
“It’s time to ask, listen, act and make a difference for someone before it happens,” Buffington said. “We want to help anyone here who may be uncertain of where to go and how to get help.
“Education and awareness are the answers. You are not alone, and you definitely matter.”
According to Rachel Wells, a dancer and psychology major, the 8-minute dance “explores the process of what someone might be experiencing.”
“We wrote narratives for three types of people: those who are afraid to ask for help, those who are crying out for help, and those who regret a suicide attempt,” added dancer Jessica Kroll, a childhood education major.
Dancer Alexandra Wilson, along with Wells, said she and many of her classmates have all had their lives affected by suicide.
“It’s heartbreaking to watch someone suffer and find out that they are alone because no one would take them or their troubles seriously,” Wilson said. “I want to see this change on campus and the topic of suicide prevention and awareness stop being taboo or something that we ignore in hopes it will go away.”
Wells added, “All it takes is one person to stand up, speak up, stand in and save a life.”
The dancers recently presented their performance at the American College Dance Association Mid-Atlantic North Regional Conference. Other dancers that performed were Holly Grainger, Juliann Marraccini, and Amanda Woodburn.
Dr. Holiday Adair, chair of the Department of Psychology, discussed warning signs and risk factors, citing the classic risk theory of one feeling burdensome, a social disconnect and a lack of fear of death (capacity).
“Suicide can be an incredibly impulsive act or be a well-planned out act and requires different strategies for each moment of that time,” she said. We think about risk factors, and I would like to say that we are all at risk. We are all on this continuum, and we all change our position on this continuum as we go through life.”
Dr. Dawn Moeller, from Cal U’s Counseling Center, discussed where to get help on campus at the morning presentation. Dr. Jayna Bonfini, also from the Counseling Center, addressed that topic at the evening performance.
While explaining services provided by the counseling center and the 24-hour availability of University Police, Moeller urged students to rely on their own instincts and ask another student if he or she is feeling suicidal.
“It’s a big hurdle to ask someone that, but do it,” she said. “You are the frontlines for each other.”
Cal U’s Counseling Center, in Carter Hall G-54, is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. The center’s phone number is 724-938-4056. The Cal U Police Department can be reached 24 hours a day at 724-938-4357 (HELP) or 911. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 (TALK). The Crisis Text Line can be reached by texting HELLO to 741741.