Conventional wisdom tells us that today's high school and college students love sharing. Whether it's on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, no observation is too minute and no detail too intimate to put out there. But even in a group where oversharing may be the norm, the discussion surrounding depression and mental health issues still tends to remain taboo—and that can result in tragedy. The Jed Foundation reports that one in 10 college students has considered suicide, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics indicate that more than 150,000 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 are treated for self-inflicted wounds every year.
As we approach the observation of National Suicide Prevention Week (September 9-15), we should first and foremost mention that if you find yourself struggling with depression and need someone to talk to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) can, literally, be a life saver.
In addition, if suicide prevention is something you want to pursue as a career, there are scholarships out there for you. Whether you've been personally affected or just want to make a difference, look into these programs; founded to honor and memorialize victims of suicide, they can help you take the next step in helping to prevent it.
The Jed Foundation is "the nation's leading organization working to promote emotional health and prevent suicide among college students," and its Jerry Greenspan Student Voice of Mental Health Award is the most notable nationwide scholarship for suicide prevention and mental health advocates. The $2,000 annual award is designed to raise awareness both of student emotional health issues and of the peers who are helping address them; if you're an active volunteer and current college student, this program is worth a look.
Samuel Lustgarten was a national Honorable Mention for the Greenspan Award in 2011; in the face of several campus tragedies, the former residence hall adviser started the Always Remember Never Surrender scholarship fund at Colorado State University. The program has raised more than $25,000 in just two years, and has started awarding scholarships to CSU upperclassmen who are pursuing health and human services degrees with a focus on suicide prevention. Likewise, the Jonathan Davis Memorial Scholarship provides funding for graduate students at Virginia's James Madison University who are specializing in suicide awareness.
If you're in high school, there are still opportunities to earn scholarships by focusing on helping. In the Chicagoland area, for example, the nonprofit Elyssa's Mission provides high schools with a prevention curriculum called SOS Signs of Suicide, which helps teach students how to look for and talk about potential issues. In conjunction with the program, Elyssa's Mission provides $1,000 scholarships for seniors who have gone through the curriculum; 2012 winner Demi Demakos of Loyola Academy received $1,500 to help further her education.
Further south, the Drake Davis Foundation, headquartered in Atlanta, awards between four and 10 Drake Davis Scholarships each year in memory of Drake, a student-athlete who committed suicide in 2006. Award winners are honored for their willingness to "speak up and reach out," and for their leadership and character.
[See 5 tips for how to avoid depression in college.]
These are a few examples of memorial scholarships; school counselors and department advisers can point you toward others. And even if you don't earn financial aid for it, we encourage you to learn more and open the conversation about suicide prevention and awareness in your school. The rewards for doing so are greater than money.
Matt Konrad has been with Scholarship America since 2005. He is an alumnus of the University of Minnesota and a former scholarship recipient.