Student calls to Bridge Peer Counseling increase

April 20, 2012, 2:08 a.m.

The Bridge Center for Peer Counseling has experienced a spike in calls this quarter, possibly in relation to two recent student deaths, according to Bridge counselor Akshay Gopalan ‘12 who spoke to The Daily before a Thursday night discussion about dealing with grief and suicide on campus.

Samantha Wopat ‘14 died on March 25 after attempting suicide the week before. Cady Hine, a co-founder of Stanford Peace of Mind, died April 1 at her home in Palo Alto.

“We are getting a spike of calls related to mental health and illness–and the loss of Cady and Sam,” Gopalan said.

He added that the Bridge does not document the specific details of counsel sessions, and the center did not have data to say whether the increase in calls is directly related to the deaths of Wopat and Hine.

According to Gopalan, Bridge counselors have asked for additional training to prevent “compassion fatigue,” or burnout from discussing how to deal with the loss of loved ones with other students.

At Thursday’s event, Donnovan Yisrael ‘88, M.A. ‘89, manager of relationship and sexual health programs at Vaden’s Health Promotion Services center, facilitated a discussion with students on how to deal with grieving–both personally and as support resources for other students.

Yisrael discussed with those in attendance how to encourage students to recognize grief as a legitimate feeling, what to say and what not to say to anyone who is grieving and how to support grieving friends. He emphasized the student wellness iThrive program as a resource for increasing students’ resiliency.

Gopalan said he thought the training would be useful to all members of the student body, regardless of whether they were counselors.

“Because the format of peer counseling is still conducive to being applied to friendships–what to do personally and how to tell others what to do–I think both aspects of the talk will be useful for the population,” he said. “I’m sure there are people who are dealing with things who may not want to go to [Counseling and Psychological Services] or the Bridge, and will tell their friends first. So it will be useful for friends to know what to do.”

Kristian Davis Bailey is a junior studying Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity. A full time journalist/writer and occasional student, he's served as an Opinion section editor, News writer and desk editor for The Daily, is a community liaison for Stanford STATIC, the campus' progressive blog and journal, and maintains his own website, 'With a K.' He's interested in how the press perpetuates systems of oppression and seeks to use journalism as a tool for dismantling such systems.

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