TPSPC seeks to cultivate community connection through SOS event


Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students. More than half of college students have experienced some level of suicidal ideation in their lifetime. This number only appears to be rising with the additional stress of a global pandemic. In a recent study by the CDC, one in four people aged 18 to 24 seriously contemplated suicide in last week of June.
The Texas Panhandle Suicide Prevention Coalition is hosting a community event, Stamp out Stigma (S.O.S.) on September 11 at John Stiff Park starting at 8:30AM, to help raise awareness around suicide and nurture community connection. The event will feature a conference centering those who have lost a loved one to suicide, a mental health awareness walk, and a community fair with local food trucks, vendors, and resources.
Suicidal ideation, or thinking and planning on suicide, has been found to be related to depression, hopelessness, substance use, and social isolation. It is social connection that MacKenzie Ellis, organizer for the event and Texas Panhandle Suicide Prevention Coalition Chairperson, hopes to foster through S.O.S. “…Somebody is way more likely to find healing and find healing quicker, depending on their level of connectedness,” Ellis said. “It can just be that ‘hey, you’re not alone’”.
Members of the community will be out in force for the event. Representatives from the Amarillo Police and Fire Departments, Family Support Services, Allergic to Average, Nick’s Fight Club and many more will be at the community fair. “We’re trying to make it a very diverse thing because we are a diverse people… so [we are] trying to bring as much of that to the table,” Ellis said.
There will be lots of activities along the walk and during the community fair for people of all ages to engage with. ”We really want to cultivate an environment of connection”, Ellis said. Organizations and vendors will have games like corn hole, there will be face painting, and a kid’s corner for even more activities.
The Texas panhandle has many resources for people who are thinking of suicide or dealing with the loss of a loved one to suicide. S.O.S. is fostered around the idea of bringing together these resources for everyone. “… Rather than trying to find the needle in the haystack. This event really is about hey, let’s bring all the needles together,” Ellis said. “You know in one place, so people can kind of see what’s available out there.”
As the stress of the semester continues to increase, it is important to recognize when or if someone is experiencing mental distress. Some potential warning signs of suicide may include; talking about wanting to die or kill oneself, talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose, talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain, talking about feeling burdensome to others, acting anxious, agitated or restless, withdrawing or feeling isolated, or displaying extreme mood swings.
To help support someone who is experiencing suicidal thoughts individuals can follow this 5-step actions plan:
1. Ask –“Are you thinking of killing yourself?” While this may feel difficult to ask, research shows asking this question does not increase risk of suicide.
2. Keep them safe- Ask if the individual has a plan or means for suicide, and if possible, remove their potential means.
3. Be there – Listen carefully and learn what the individual is thinking and feeling. Research has shown that acknowledging and talking about suicide may help reduce suicidal thoughts.
4. Help them connect- the national suicide prevention hotline number is 1-800-273-TALK and the crisis text line is 741741. Students are also welcome to come by the student counseling center to speak with a qualified professional.
5. Stay connected – Follow up and check in with the individual.
Student counseling services provides confidential counseling by certified professionals. If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts or a mental health crisis, we are here to help. Come by CC 116 or call 806-651-2340 for assistance.

Mackenzie Ellis, Texas Panhandle Suicide Prevention Coalition Chairperson [email protected]