Some have family members who have committed suicide. Others had the realization that they could save lives right where they are in college. For Karishma Patel, a third-year in neuroscience and outreach coordinator for Ohio State student organization Buckeyes Campaign Against Suicide, it was the desire to put an end to the stigma of mental illness.
These are just some of the life influences that motivate members of the student-run organization BCAS into organizing their annual RUOK? Day.
Patel described the event as a place where students can go to learn about mental health and how to help both themselves and others in a more dynamic and interactive manner, with a specific focus on suicide prevention techniques.
While BCAS organized the event, other groups at OSU and in the nearby community have joined in support of the cause.
“I’m kind of a go-big-or-go-home type of person. Last year we had 600 people attend. This year we want 1,000,” said Kayla Higginbotham, a fourth-year in psychology and women’s studies, and president of BCAS.
There will be dozens of different tables where students can learn about the services offered by the groups involved and participate in activities such as role playing to practice what to say to a suicidal friend. The event is divided into five sections, each one standing for a component in the acronym RUOK?.
The “R” stands for research. Higginbotham said that includes suicide hotlines, the OSU Suicide Prevention organization and the Counseling and Consulting Service.
The “U” stands for university resources that contribute to overall student mental health, including Recreational Sports and the Student Wellness Center.
The “O” stands for student organizations that deal with mental health, including Active Minds and the Boo Radley Society.
The “K” stands for knowledge, which ties together all of the information from the event into statistics and facts.
The “?” is a new addition this year. Higginbotham said that this year her goal was to focus back to the day’s original message, “RUOK?.” This section will deal with how to ask that question in different situations.
Higginbotham stressed that just because it’s an educational event about suicide doesn’t mean it’s going to be depressing and boring. There will be food, free T-shirts and therapy dogs.
Maria Brnjic, a fourth-year in respiratory therapy and four-year member of the club, said she agreed that it’s an “optimistic vibe” throughout the event.
“It’s a very positive atmosphere,” she said. “We work all year long for RUOK? Day. We’re all very hopeful for the event. It’s very rewarding to see everyone together and then leave with smiling faces and hopefully some information.”
Higginbotham said she wants students to attend so that they can gain the basic education about the warning signs and risk factors of suicide, and the resources available to them.
“But also so that they can feel that they are part of the cause of preventing suicide, that they can save lives,” she said.
Brnjic recalled the effect the event had on students who went to previous RUOK? days.
“In past years we’ve had people come up to us and tell us the impact that it had on them, how it made them realize that they had a problem,” Brnjic said.
She also encouraged students who have attended in previous years to come back.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into finding different ways to incorporate mental health, be it through yoga, the (Student) Wellness Center, (Recreational) Sports,” she said. “It’s constantly growing. No matter where your interests lie, you will find something that meets your interests and may even fulfill a need you didn’t even know you had.”
The event will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Ohio Union on Tuesday.