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Sask. university implements suicide prevention strategy as school year begins

The U of S has launched a suicide prevention strategy to help students who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, and those wanting to support others who are thinking of it. (Miriam Valdes-Carletti/CTV News)

The U of S has launched a suicide prevention strategy to help students who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, and those wanting to support others who are thinking of it. (Miriam Valdes-Carletti/CTV News)
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Students at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) are being reminded to take care of their mental health as they head back to campus this month.

On Thursday, the U of S announced it’s launched a suicide prevention strategy to help students who are experiencing thoughts of suicide, and those wanting to support others who are thinking of it.

According to a 2021 Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey, 10 per cent of the 3,553 students surveyed in Saskatchewan said they thought about suicide over the last 12 months and of those, 34 per cent made a plan.

Ashlin Malik is an engineering student and said she took a lesser course load this year in order to take care of her mental health, she also plays soccer. Malik said she knew someone who died by suicide growing up and understands the importance of checking in on people around you.

“Make sure that they’re (friends) doing OK with school and whatever is going on in their life but also making sure that you’re taking time to check on yourself,” she said.

Malik describes an engineering degree as a heavy workload and said she’s taking her time.

“There’s often this push to get it done in four years, to get your degree done fast and it’s okay to take an extra year, take some summer or spring courses. It’s definitely helped for my mental health for sure.”

According to a 2020 Statistics Canada report, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 24. The Saskatchewan Coroners Service said the province’s suicide rates are higher than the national per capita average.

The university’s campaign includes a variety and print materials with phrases such as “Are you OK?” and “You are not alone.”

“‘Are you OK?’ is a simple but such a helpful question we can ask if we’re concerned about someone in our community, and ‘You are not alone’ tells students that there are others who are struggling and that there are people here to help,” said Jay Wilson, interim vice-provost of Teaching, Learning, and Student Experience at the U of S in a news release.

Agnes Nguyen is studying microbiology and said mental health is one of the most important things in a person’s life but many, including herself, forget to pay attention. She said it’s something she didn’t prioritize until the pandemic.

“This year I tried to balance out things more and take initiative to reach out to my friends, even if it’s just for small talk,” she said.

Nguyen said if she ever got to the point of thinking of suicide, she’d like to learn how to deal it and how to help others.

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