Miss Arkansas Discusses Suicide Risk and Prevention

By Shelby Evans

Razorback Reporter

After a suicide struck her family during her first year of college, the newly crowned Miss Arkansas was inspired to create a platform that would educate people to recognize the warning signs of depression and suicide.

“Speak Up Now: Suicide Prevention and Awareness,” Savannah Skidmore’s platform, was inspired by events during her freshman year of college, when her uncle died by suicide.

“It was sudden and really impacted me,” Skidmore said.

During her year as Miss Arkansas, Skidmore said she hopes to talk to college students as well as elementary and high school students about her platform.

“This is something that really impacts this age group because there are so many life changes during this time,” Skidmore said.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 15-24, only behind unintentional injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While a student at the UofA, Skidmore started the campus organization Speak Up Hogs! It promotes mental health awareness and the psychological services offered on campus.

“I noticed a lot of people didn’t know what was offered on campus, and I wanted to get the word out,” Skidmore said.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), located in the Pat Walker Health Center, offers “mental health services that assist in reducing distress and promoting academic and professional success” to UA students, according to the CAPS website.

All students may use two counseling sessions with a mental health clinician for no out-of-pocket cost each semester, said Zac Brown, program specialist for the Pat Walker Health Center.
“The cost is covered in the student health fee,” Brown said.

Sessions at CAPS are $20 after the first two sessions, and while CAPS does not accept insurance, financial aid is available. Students can meet with a financial case manager and be approved for a 75 percent decrease in cost, making their sessions $5.

The UofA is not the only university in Arkansas with services like this.

Arkansas State University, the University of Central Arkansas, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Hendrix College and Arkansas Tech University offer counseling to their students and the costs are covered in their health fees, according to each university’s website.
Skidmore’s RSO also spoke to different campus groups about recognizing suicidal signs.

“We would also speak to different groups on campus to recognize when someone you know is at risk, maybe not with suicide, but with anxiety or depression,” Skidmore said.

Risks of suicide tend to be highest when a person shows signs of risk factors that include, but are not limited to: mental disorders, including bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and aggression, alcohol and substance abuse and family history of attempted or completed suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Skidmore’s platform is about suicide awareness, but she wants to teach people how to intervene when they notice a loved-one or a friend is at risk to die by suicide, she said.

“I want to promote people to speak up,” Skidmore said. “When you talk to people about intervening, that’s the part that scares people the most. They don’t feel like they are equipped to do so, but it’s about reaching out to that person who needs help.”

You have to act as a mediator to the person, Skidmore said.

“I’m not equipped to bring someone out of depression but I can attempt to get them better help,” Skidmore said.