Leaders in the Panhellenic Association are teaching members how to recognize signs of suicide and depression in the wake of two confirmed student suicides this year.
The nine-page guide, which was sent to the organization’s 1,500 members last week, explains the symptoms of and treatments for mental illnesses ranging from anxiety to bipolar disorder. Each of the 11 sororities on campus will also use the resource to talk about mental health at upcoming chapter meetings.
With examples of common college situations that can trigger stress, like breakups or homesickness, the guide encourages members to speak up if they are concerned about a friend: “Make sure that you continuously check up on her, invite her over. Fulfill your sisterly duties.”
Kasey Packer, president of the Panhellenic Association, said the organization had been compiling the guide since January, when the first death was reported on campus. They decided to release it last week after two more students died in West Hall.
“The recent tragedies on campus have reminded us of the importance of community here at GW,” she said.
Jordan Kaye, the organization’s vice president of standards, who wrote the guide, said an updated version with information on eating disorders, sexual assault and substance abuse could be released by the end of the month.
“This packet was created to make sure that all of our sisters are healthy and safe, and know that we as a community are there to support them through good and bad,” Kaye said.
The guide was distributed across the email listservs of GW’s 11 sororities, which reaches about 16 percent of the undergraduate population.
Allison Buck, the president of Delta Gamma sorority, said she thought chapter leaders must encourage members to focus more on mental health.
“It is important for us to be aware of those around us and make sure we take care of each other, especially at times like these,” she said.
After three students died in West Hall this semester – one from a confirmed suicide, one from an apparent suicide and one from an unconfirmed cause – administrators vowed to increase mental health resources. Student-organized mental health groups also lobbied administrators to add permanent counseling services to the Mount Vernon Campus.