The outer wall of the Counseling and Psychological Services office will be transformed into a destination for hope in CAPS’s ongoing effort to promote student mental heath.
The first of its kind in the nation, the goal of the “Messages of Hope” project is to help prevent suicide, the second-leading cause of death among college students nationwide. Students are encouraged to write messages onto wooden tiles which will then be hung on the wall outside of the CAPS office in the Michigan Union. Anyone can submit a tile, and students are free to come and remove a tile they find inspiring for their personal use.
Some tiles featured lighthearted messages such as “You are loved,” or “Download ‘Puppies’ for iPhone,” while others were filled with personal messages and stories of survival. Christine Asidao, the assistant director of outreach and education for CAPS, said the wall is the culmination of a yearlong collaboration between CAPS and its student advisory board.
Asiado said the goal of the wall is to serve as a personal medium of support for people struggling with suicidal thoughts. Instead of focusing on raising awareness of the bleak statistics of suicide, CAPS wanted to approach the issue differently.
“The data is really important,” Asidao said, “but it’s really about those heartfelt messages.”
“We’re really focused on the themes of hope and resiliency,” CAPS director Todd Sevig added. “Those can be present in even our hardest struggles.”
E. Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, addressed a crowd of about 50 people at the unveiling of the project. She remarked that it is a creative approach to the serious issue and encouraged those in attendance to continue thinking of innovative ways to help.
“I think that it is just really far too many to imagine the real loss in talent, in gift, in the sense of community, in the possibilities, when someone takes their own life,” Harper said. “We remember the pain, and all the things we wish we could have done. But the one thing we can do here is to make sure they understand how important they are.”
After viewing the tiles and chatting with other attendees, Harper said she was impressed by what CAPS and the student advisory board put together.
Though she hadn’t yet filled out a tile of her own, Harper said after her address that she has been blown away with the altruism and the student body’s response to the issue.
“I had no idea that I would get off the elevator and see and feel what I have seen and am feeling right now,” Harper said. “You know how you know the importance of something, but not really the power of it? I’ve been blown away by this.”
LSA sophomore Lauren Roth, a member of CAPS’ student advisory board, said she was happy with the way the project came to fruition.
“We’re making use of space that wasn’t being used before,” Roth said. “I think it’s going to have a really positive impact on students, especially by letting them take one that resonates with them and leaving one for others.”
Engineering sophomore Kevin Pitt said he thought the event was a success and thinks CAPS is taking the right steps toward prevention.
“It’s a big deal,” Pitt said. “I don’t think suicide is really talked about as a casual subject. And to a point, I don’t think it should be, I think it should be tackled in a more organized manner like this.”