Counseling Services to arrange flag exhibit for suicide prevention awareness


Roling, Michelle M [COUNS]

Student Counseling Services is organizing its first Field of Memories exhibit in honor of the U.S. college students who die by suicide each year.

Student Counseling Services is organizing its first annual Field of Memories exhibit in honor of students who have lost their lives to suicide.

The Field of Memories: Be Aware Show You Care Flag Exhibit will be held on the south lawn of Parks Library on Sept. 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

National Suicide Prevention Week began Sept. 4 and will end Sept. 10, and National Suicide Prevention Month will take place through all of September.

The exhibit will feature 1,100 yellow flags inserted into the ground to represent the 1,100 U.S. college students who die by suicide each year. Yellow is the color for suicide prevention.

The Field of Memories exhibit is a “visual display of the impact of suicide occurring on campuses,” Michelle Roling, assistant director of outreach for Student Counseling Services, said.

During the event, people are encouraged to grab a Sharpie and write a message on one of the flags. Messages can include positive thoughts, memorials to lives lost to suicide and words of encouragement for others.

“The hope is to raise awareness and increase help-seeking behavior by decreasing the stigma so we can save lives and for people to get help when they need it and not feel so alone,” Jeffrey Nelson, suicide prevention coordinator, said.

Iowa State had over 3,500 students with suicidal thoughts, 1,350 students with suicidal plans and 537 suicide attempts in 2019, according to a Healthy Minds study.

Statistically, this would mean there were 10 suicide attempts by an Iowa State student every week for the 2019 calendar year, according to Roling.

“We live in a tough culture,” Roling said. “We live in a culture that is highly competitive, especially for college students.”

Counseling services originally intended to host the Field of Memories event several years ago but experienced delays due to COVID-19. The counseling services director at that time had experienced a Field of Memories event on another campus and introduced the idea to other staff members.

In the event of severe weather, the Field of Memories exhibit will be canceled until next year.

“We sit with people, every week, every day, who are struggling with the meaning of life and the decision around how to stay alive, Roling said. “It is both a professional and personal passion for people to know that there is help and they’re not alone.”

Resources for students struggling with suicidal thoughts or behaviors include the following:

Student Counseling Service: 515-294-5056

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 or 988

Crisis Text Line: “ISU” 741741

Let’s Talk

TAO Self-Help