College campuses shine light on suicide prevention awareness following student-athlete deaths

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The death of country music singer Naomi Judd has prompted tough conversations about suicide and emotional struggles this Mental Health Awareness Month.

Some of those conversations took place on college campuses, especially after the recent loss of three student-athletes this year. 

At UWM, students who want to help learn about suicide prevention have tied green bandanas on their backpacks.

"My freshman year was really, really difficult. I was struggling a lot with having an identity," said Klairissa Boisvert, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduating senior.

Klairissa Boisvert was a sophomore when Covid hit, abruptly ending her track and field season.

"We started having a lot more conversations about our mental wellbeing as athletes with our coaches and with our teammates," said Boisvert.

That helped Boisvert, but others continue to struggle. Since March, suicide has claimed the lives of student-athletes at Stanford, UW-Madison and at James Madison University.

"It's a big issue in the athletics world, so I thought it would be important to bring the bandana project here and try to help others feel less alone," said Anya Athan, UW-Milwaukee graduate student.

Anya Athan brought the bandana project to UWM when Covid shut things down.

"Each case or situation is different, but it's not a quick fix, right," said Donetta Walker, licensed professional counselor at Divine Wellness and Counseling in Glendale.

Walker says depression looks different for everyone.

"Prolonged sadness, you might feel irritable. For some people it's a lack of sleep in addition to that, you're oversleeping or under-sleeping, you're overeating or undereating," said Walker.

The therapy world is a busy place now. Many have waiting lists. 

Donetta Walker asks you to have patience and don't give up.

"If you're feeling stressed, if you're feeling sadness, if you're feeling overwhelmed, just reach out to get the additional support that you need. People think there's a type of person who's suicidal or depressed, no. This can be anyone. Life is challenging," said Walker.

Naomi Judd died of suicide hours before being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Milwaukee has a suicide prevention hotline. It's 414-257-7222.

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