In Moment of Crisis, Kent State Freshman Shows True Meaning of Flashes Taking Care of Flashes
Julia Hallgren didn’t know the student in front of her.
She didn’t need to.
“The student closed the door after they said they felt suicidal, (so) I knew I had to do something,” Hallgren said.
Hallgren immediately contacted Kent State University Police, who are trained to support students in crisis and who immediately responded, potentially saving the student’s life.
For Hallgren, a freshman studying Human Development and Family Studies, the scene was all too familiar.
“Unfortunately, this isn't the first time I had to do something like this but knowing that I made a difference makes me feel good,” she said.
What the student in crisis didn’t know was that Hallgren serves as the Ohio Junior Board President of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.
In 2018 as a sophomore in high school, Hallgren tragically lost her childhood best friend to suicide, leaving her with an empty feeling. At that point, she began understanding how common mental illness and suicide ideation were and how they affected those around her. As a result, she decided to take a proactive approach, remaining steadfast in advocating its prevention.
“Many of my friends in middle school and high school had a mental illness, and I wanted to find out a way to help,” said Hallgren. “When I began researching organizations that supported those who have lost someone to suicide and mental health awareness, I came across the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; from then on, I've been doing a lot of volunteer work for them.”
In this most recent incident, Hallgren knew to remain calm, not panic and not defer to someone else.
Hallgren also remains active on the campus, participating in on-campus mental health awareness events, spreading the word about the foundation and that ultimately, it is okay not to feel okay.
Her selfless act caught the attention of the CARE (Consultation-Assessment-Referral-Education) Team which assists students in crisis and who are at risk to harm themselves and the eye of Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Talea Drummer-Ferrell.
“The story really touched us because we were like, ‘wait, she did not know this student?’” she said. “We always talk about Flashes take care of Flashes, so to hear we had a student who saw something and said something and stepped in right away, what are the odds that Julia would be the one approached about this?”
STEP UP AND SPEAK OUT
Kent State’s Step Up and Speak Out initiative seeks to better educate university and community members on assisting distressed or disruptive individuals. As mental health issues continue to rise at alarming rates across the country, faculty, staff, and even students have had to take on the role of being “first responders.”
Hallgren agrees that this is an integral part of being a student on campus.
“Services like the ones provided at Kent State are super important because it means that there are resources in place, on campus,” she said. “Students can have access to them if they are in a crisis or if they know someone is in a crisis; on the other hand, counseling and psychological services are equally important because they provide access for students to receive mental health care.”
Step Up and Speak Out is now a part of the KSUMobile App, making the resources easier to access.
COUNSELING AND PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES
With the addition of the CARES Center, along with bolstering the staff and partnerships in Counseling and Psychological Services to provide after-hours support for students, Kent State has remained committed to providing a safe and secure environment for the campus community.
Often, students may feel embarrassed or not sure where to reach out. Hallgren says she knows how scary it can be but taking the first step is the most important to address an issue head-on.
“It can be very scary and can feel overwhelming but know that you are doing the right thing; you may have doubts and worries, but know you are going to be in the right hands,” she said. “It is perfectly okay to reach out and seek help. And if you feel alone and that no one cares about you, that is not true. You are important, loved, and you were put on this earth for a reason!”
With October designated as National Depression and Health Screening Month, there are many resources on campus that students and faculty can utilize to make a difference. They include participating in suicide prevention training offered by the Center for Public Policy and Health’s Division of Mental Health and Substance Use located in the College of Public Health.
Everyone can make a difference, as evidenced by Hallgren.
“We need more students like Julia who are willing to step in for someone they have no prior relationship to and to speak up and know their resources,” said Drummer-Ferrell. “She is a fantastic example of someone we want to continue to encourage and empower because she did the right thing and could have potentially saved someone’s life because she got the student some help.”
Hallgren is impressed with how proactive Kent State is regarding mental health awareness and the resources available, but in the end, the progress starts one person at a time.
“At the end of the day, we all just need to be kind to each other [and] do something today to make someone smile,” she said. “When we all go home from our busy lives, we don't know what people are dealing with. Please, be kind, speak up, and help others!”
For more information on the CARES Center, visit www.kent.edu/CARESCenter.
For more information on Counseling and Psychological Services, visit www.kent.edu/caps.
For more information on the Division of Mental Health and Substance Use, visit www.kent.edu/mhsu.
For more information about Kent State University Police Services, visit www.kent.edu/publicsafety/police-services.
For more information on Step Up and Speak Out, visit www.kent.edu/stepupspeakout.