A remembrance wall at MCC Center Campus gave visitors a chance to write a note in honor of a family member or friend who committed suicide.

A remembrance wall at MCC Center Campus gave visitors a chance to write a note in honor of a family member or friend who committed suicide.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Macomb Community College observes National Suicide Prevention Month

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published September 14, 2018

 Several pairs of shoes for Stomp Out Suicide were displayed to represent the approximately 1,100 college students who commit suicide each year in the U.S.

Several pairs of shoes for Stomp Out Suicide were displayed to represent the approximately 1,100 college students who commit suicide each year in the U.S.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

MACOMB COUNTY —  In the fall of 2014, Anna Marie Smith was in her first semester at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, when she disappeared.

Eleven days later, the 18-year-old college student was found in the woods off campus with a suicide note.

Daniel Langfelder, a student at Florida Gulf Coast University, took his own life in the winter of 2010 after battling depression and experiencing negative reactions to different antidepressants.

Smith and Langfelder were among those who were remembered the week of Sept. 10 during the Stomp Out Suicide project held at the Center Campus of Macomb Community College in Clinton Township. The event paid tribute to the approximately 1,100 college students who commit suicide each year in the U.S.

From Sept. 10 to 14, pairs of shoes with a brief bio of a college student who committed suicide or tried to kill themselves and survived were on display at the campus. The shoes were donated and will be given to a veterans group when the display is taken down.

Stomp Out Suicide was among several activities that MCC held to observe National Suicide Prevention Month in September. The activities, organized by MCC psychology professor Karen Wickline with help from several students, were designed to bring attention to suicide and inform people that there is help available for anyone feeling suicidal at any time in their lives.

“It’s to educate people on different mental health issues and the signs and symptoms to look out for,” Wickline said. “People are taking their lives more, and the number of people ages 15 to 24 has increased over the last decade, for sure.”

While the events were held on the college campuses, suicide affects people of all ages and walks of life. Information was available for those contemplating suicide and to friends and family members of those who know someone who is.

“Sometimes, things seem so dark to people contemplating suicide that they don’t know where to turn,” said Marie Pritchett, MCC dean of arts and sciences, in a prepared statement. “Our goal in raising awareness of this issue is to make sure that someone who needs help themselves or for a friend or family member knows that there is help available. If we can do that, this effort has been a success.”

Throughout the week, a mental health exhibit was displayed at the Center Campus media center that included student-produced informational posters, flyers, stories, artwork and community resources, all related to educating on issues related to suicide. Poster boards had information about depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, body image, cyberbullying, substance abuse and more, and where to get help.

Students in Wickline’s classes made videos about suicide prevention that were posted on televisions in the campus library. A remembrance wall was also placed in the student center buildings at both campuses, where people could post a memory or the name of a friend or loved one who died from suicide.

By Sept 12, several people had already left hand-written messages, including an anonymous person at Center Campus who wrote, “I was suicidal for nearly 6 years. It took my best friend’s tears after my last attempt for me to break out of it. It does get better. I have hope for the future now.”

“As a result of these events, we have seen more traffic in our counseling center,” Wickline said. “One in four people will suffer from a mental health issue at some time. More people are asking for help.”

Wickline said there is a lot of speculation as to why people take their own lives. Some young people feel too much pressure to get the grades they need to get into certain universities and programs. Some are experiencing financial problems or feel overwhelmed by life. They also don’t get the help they need for their mental illness.

“College is a trigger,” Wickline said. “It’s very competitive, and you no longer have someone holding your hand. You have to be self-sufficient.”

Wickline said students sometimes don’t get the help they need because they are on their parents’ insurance, and their parents don’t believe in therapy. Another reason is because of the stigma attached to mental illness. And others have substance abuse problems.

“We have an opioid epidemic,” Wickline said. “People (addicted) to opioids lose their job, their family, their home. They have no money, and they’re tired of living life as an addict.”

In past years, Wickline said, people didn’t talk about suicide because “that would put it in someone’s head.” Present day, though, it is brought to the forefront because “there is help available,” Wickline said.