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Southwestern’s Vigil for People Affected by Suicide


Southwestern’s Vigil for People Affected by Suicide


Trigger warning: mentions of suicide. Reader discretion is advised. If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. This article should not be substituted for professional medical advice.

The loss of a family member or friend to suicide is devastating. Some wish to honor the life of their loved one. There are various ways of this, and one is a vigil. On September 10th, 2021, National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Day, Southwestern’s Health Education Pro team held a vigil to honor those who have been affected by suicide. I was not able to go to the event, but I interviewed Santiago Rocha, health education director of the team, about the event: 

Grace Parmer: Has the SU Health Education Office (a division of the health and counseling office) had this event in years past?”

Santiago Rocha: “This is the first time that I have put on the event. This is the first time that Southwestern has had a full-time health educator. There may have been vigils in the past, but they were not interactive. There may have been backpacks to represent students who had been lost to suicide.” 

Grace Parmer: “Has there ever been a Southwestern student that has died by suicide on campus?”

Santiago Rocha: “I cannot confirm nor deny that.” 

Grace Parmer:Was there a speech given at the vigil?

Santiago Rocha: “We (the Health Education Pro team) wanted it to be more of a come-and-go event for students to come as they wished, so there was not a speech given. There was information given about how to recognize suicidal ideation, given in the form of pamphlets. Some students took the candles home, some were emotional during the vigil, and some saw the event as a celebration of life of the person who had died by suicide.” 

Grace Parmer: “How many people came to the vigil?” 

Santiago Rocha: “About 27 people came in person.”

Grace Parmer:  “How many submissions were there in the Google Form for people who have been affected by suicide?” 

Santiago Rocha:  “There were about 32 submissions in the Google Form that we posted on our Instagram bio for people to fill out to have a candle with a name of someone who had been affected by suicide.”

Grace Parmer: “Were there any submissions that surprised you? 

Santiago Rocha: “Some people put a certain location or date that people died by suicide. I was very surprised by a submission that said, “To my past self, I am so glad that I am not in that dark place anymore,” that really touched me. There was another one that said, “To anyone who has died because of a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” 

Grace Parmer: “Were there any trained mental health professionals from the Counseling and Health Center there?” 

Santiago Rocha: “No, it was just me and my student interns there to host it.”

Grace Parmer: “Was there any sort of processing emotions before or after the vigil?” 

Santiago Rocha: “It was hard to do an opening and closing for each student because most came and left. I was able to talk to each student and make sure that they were ok. For next year, I want to do an event with more of a set time, so a speech can be given. I had a lot of students that came up and thanked me afterwards, which showed me that they needed the program.”

Grace Parmer: “Is there anything else that you want to say about this event?”

Santiago Rocha: “The idea and (partial) creation of this event was student-led. I encourage all students that have ideas for events surrounding this or other public health issues to contact me at “rochas@southwestern.edu.”” 

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