Today is World Suicide Prevention Day and last week, Illinois State students kicked off Suicide Awareness Month by participating in the second annual #Let’sChalkAboutMentalHealth event, which challenges people to spread hope by “taking positive messages to the streets, literally.” The national event is a part of the mental health awareness campaign, #KillTheStigma. Suicide Prevention and Awareness began the tradition through Facebook last fall, and 27 cities across America answered the call. Students at ISU came well equipped with chalk and covered the quad in uplifting notes and inspiring quotes.
ISU Senior Emily Yacko (pictured above) was responsible for getting ISU involved in this campaign by starting her own Facebook event. Here’s what she had to say:
How did you find out about the #KillTheStigma campaign?
After losing my cousin, Molly Yacko, to suicide on June 29, 2018, I have been doing what I can to advocate for mental health. After seeing the Suicide Awareness/Prevention group on Facebook share their event, Let’s Chalk About Mental Health, I knew I wanted to participate in it. I thought it was an amazing way to kick off Suicide Awareness month.
Why did you decide to bring it to ISU?
I wanted to bring the event to Illinois State because I understand how difficult the change for students can be from living at home to living on your own for the first time in college. Almost eve rything in your world changes and it is really easy to get lost in these changes and feel alone.
What does this event mean to you?
I wanted to bring this event to campus hoping that it would impact those that are struggling. I am hoping people will read the messages and realize they aren’t alone in what they’re going through and that there is hope for better days ahead. It might be hard to see at the time, but there are better days ahead and things do get better.
How else do you like to spread positivity in your daily life?
I like to spread positivity in my everyday life by sharing positive quotes and inspiration on social media hoping that it helps others like it has me. I have also recently enjoyed handing out positive cards that I have made in honor of Molly that remind people that they make the world a better place, because I believe it is an important statement that everyone should be reminded of.
Do you have any advice for people who want to help others battle negativity?
My advice for those that want to help others battling negativity is to never stop reminding people of their worth. It is so easy to slip someone’s mind when they are going through a rough time and it is so important that we keep reminding them. Point out the good in others when you see it. I feel like it is important to point out the little things that people do that remind them that the world wouldn’t be the same without them here. They are little actions to take but for someone struggling, it could make their day and even save their life.
I’m happy to report that the event was an absolute blast. We were small in numbers, but large in impact. Everyone was happy to give out the messages that they knew they’d want to receive. A few people even joined in when they found out what we were doing, which was super encouraging.
When asked for a final word, Emily’s answer was:
I believe it is important to have these conversations about mental health because it shows people that they aren’t alone. It shows everyone that they aren’t alone in what they’re going through and there are people out there who want to help. By not talking about this topic, it is putting up a wall around those that struggle and making them feel like they are the only ones. This then prevents them from getting the help that they may need. We need to keep having these conversations and keep reminding everyone that it’s okay to not be okay. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help but rather a sign of strength. It says a lot about the strength of a person who reaches out for help when they are aware that they cannot heal on their own.