When you drive through the main entrance of Elizabeth City State University and see a field of red flags on the grounds adjacent to the arch, know that you are entering the location of the state launch of the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide’s Red Flag Project. The Red Flag Project is a campaign to raise awareness about suicide in North Carolina and raise funds to support ongoing prevention measures.
The location of the state launch was revealed on Sept. 10, World Suicide Prevention Awareness Day, during a Facebook live event, with presentations and brief comments from ECSU officials.
“As educators, we not only care about the success of our students in the classroom, we also care about their overall health and wellbeing,” Chancellor Karrie G. Dixon said. “The coronavirus pandemic has reinforced the need to focus on mental health in addition to physical health. This has been a very stressful time for all of us, and we need to provide the necessary services to support the emotional and mental health of our campus community.”
ECSU is committed to the mental wellbeing of its students, says Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Gary Brown. With its recent launch of the TAO, or Therapy Assistance Online, program, the ECSU office of counseling services is able to take mental health assistance a step further, providing students with an alternative to traditional therapy.
It is part of the university’s ongoing efforts to ensure that students are offered the opportunity to not only learn, but also have a well-rounded, healthy life.
“Within the Division of Student Affairs, we work diligently to ensure that our work is focused on the holistic development of students,” Mr. Brown said. “We certainly desire to ensure that students will develop relationships and have a sense of family on our campus. And, central to this, is our recognition of and intentional focus on the need to raise awareness of resources and support for mental health concerns.”
According to ECSU’s director of counseling services, Jody Grandy, the university was chosen for the site of the state launch of the campaign after its participation in previous campaigns, such as last year’s Out of Darkness Walk, an event that raised money to support the work of the AFPS.
“We know that suicide awareness is important to college-age students,” said Ms. Grandy. “It’s the number two cause of death for college-age students.”
In 2019, according to the AFPS, 1,494 North Carolinians died by suicide. To remember those lives, there will be a flag to represent each life planted in the ground at ECSU. However, Ms. Grandy says while that is the total number, the total number of flags at one time will be staggered over two months.
The idea behind the flag is not only to remember the lives of those who died by suicide, but also to allow the public to “buy” a flag. Buying a flag is a way to raise money for suicide prevention in North Carolina and can be done by going HERE.
Ms. Grandy says students may face major depression, feel isolated and alone, or struggle with anxiety. Any of these mental health challenges can lead to either suicidal thoughts, or to actively taking one’s own life. The goal for the AFPS and ECSU’s Office of Counseling Services, is to give people a chance to seek solutions to those challenges without suicide.
“You’re not alone. You have support,” said Ms. Grandy.
Most recently, many of these mental health challenges may be amplified due to COVID-19. Because of isolation and anxiety surrounding the virus, symptoms of mental health issues may be intensified, and more measures need to be taken to assist those struggling through these challenges.
The events scheduled to support suicide prevention do not stop with the flag presentation. Ms. Grandy says a virtual vigil has been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 10, at xxx p.m. Students are asked to pre-register for the online event HERE.
Throughout the semester, other events will take place, including information sessions and an Out of Darkness Walk planned for November. The flags will remain on campus through Nov. 10.
Students seeking help can contact the ECSU Student Counseling Services at 252-335-3275. To contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call 1-800-273-TALK (8255), the Crisis Text Line (text TALK to 741741), or afsp.org. Students who would like to access the TAO site can go HERE.