Shining a Light on Students’ Mental Health

Rex Barlett — Communication and political science with an international relations emphasis

Trigger warning: This article contains the topic of suicide.

The first day Rex stepped foot on Boise State’s campus was at orientation. “From that day on, I’ve never looked back.”

He was an athlete on the spirit squad, vice president of The Corral (the student section at sports games), vice president of fraternal affairs at the Interfraternity Council, corresponding secretary in Phi Gamma Delta, a resident assistant (RA), and a desk assistant. Don’t forget he was a full-time student too. Let’s just say he was one busy guy.

Rex remembers a time when he was an RA, a resident of his over-medicated. They knew she was struggling, but didn’t realize the severity of the issue. She nearly died. Rex, a typically sun-shiny person, was hit hard by the experience. He felt like he had failed as an RA because he wasn’t there as a resource. He thought, “What if things were different? If I had not found my community, I could have been that student who engaged in a suicidal act.”

He took a major step back from all his activities to help students find their own communities so that they can live happier, more balanced lives. He started working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, planning an Out of Darkness walk to raise awareness to prevent suicide on campus. Rex points out that Idaho has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, especially among college students, men, and Veterans. On campus, he tells students about resources like the Dean of Students and Health Services so they know where to get help.

Rex said, “The public perception of suicide is that something is wrong with you. But that’s not true. They are normal people facing depression. I want to be there to help, love, and support them, and to tell them that they deserve more for themselves. If I wasn’t there to help that one student, I want to be there for 100 other people down the road.”

The Dean of Students office offers the following resources to help students struggling with mental health, substance use, and/or suicidality:

Suicide Prevention Workshops:

These workshops break down the stigma of suicide. Participants learn to recognize warning signs, risk factors, create a supportive environment, and how to have a conversation with someone who might be contemplating suicide. You’ll also learn about self-care as well as campus and community resources.

Kognito At-Risk Mental Health Awareness Training:

In this 30-45 minute online training simulation, students, faculty, and staff learn to identify, approach, and refer students who show signs of psychological distress or suicidal thoughts. You’ll also learn to recognize warning signs and use motivational interviewing tactics to build trust and motivate students to seek help.

Sources of Strength (SoS):

In this strength-based, peer-led, wellness program, students learn about suicide prevention, changing social norms to spread positive messages and encourage others to seek help, codes of silence, and perceptions of adult support.

If you need more information or someone to talk to, contact April Thorndyke in the Dean of Students Office: aprilthorndyke@boisestate.edu.