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UTPA's CaPS offers counseling to students in need
By Javier Espinoza, Intern
(956) 665-2741
Posted: 03/14/2012
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Luis Cano and fellow students at The University of Texas-Pan American orchestrated an event recently to celebrate life and honor the family of Brenda Dominguez.


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Cano, a business finance major, along with the Society of Human Resource Management and the College of Business Administration student organization, put on the "Music For Life" concert March 3 to raise money for Texas Suicide Prevention in the name of 18-year-old Dominguez, a high school student from Edinburg who took her life on UTPA's campus in February.

The event, held at the UTPA Library Auditorium, featured music from local bands.

"The purpose of the event was to promote suicide awareness and to show respect to the family and let them know there are people in the community who care and are here to support them during their time of loss," Cano said.

Cano and fellow students exemplified UTPA's commitment to its community. Lise Blankenship, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS), said the University has a similar commitment to support its students when they need it.

"The main thing we want students to know is that we are here for them whenever they need help," said Blankenship. "We know that students might be dealing with both minor and major things going on in their lives they could really use some help with. No issue is too small or large."

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, and the further students pursue higher education, such as continuing to graduate school, the higher the risk becomes.

CaPS is staffed by mental health professionals who offer counseling and other services to students for free.

"Suicide is a big issue in the 18-24 age group, but college is kind of a protective factor because suicide for the same age, for those not in college, is a little higher than those who are in college," Blankenship said.

Though determining whether a person is considering harming himself or herself is difficult, some signs might indicate the person is contemplating suicide, including violent mood swings, depression and suddenly worsening school performance. If students suspect a classmate, friend or loved one might be experiencing suicidal thoughts, the best thing they can do is to seek help for them from a mental health professional, she said.

"Often our students don't know where to find a mental health professional, so I think it's intimidating for anyone who sees a friend or loved one who is in distress. It's difficult to know what to do," said Blankenship.

For more information, contact CaPS at (956) 665-2574. To take a mental health screening, log on to www.ULifeline.org, an online resource center for college student mental health and emotional well-being.

For help after hours, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), Tropical Texas Center for MHMR at 1-877-289-7199 or call 911.

Some signs that a person may be contemplating suicide are:

• makes statements such as "the world is better off without me" or "I don't even know why I'm here;"

• a suddenly worsening school performance;

• a fixation with death or violence;

• unhealthy peer relationships;

• violent mood swings or a sudden change in personality;

• indications that the student is in an abusive relationship;

• signs of an eating disorder;

• difficulty in adjusting to gender identity;

• depression or expressions of sadness and hopelessness, or anger and rage;

• withdrawal from friends and extracurricular activities;

• an increase in the use of alcohol or other drugs;

• obtaining a weapon or other things that they could use to hurt themselves (such as prescription medications, razor blades or a firearm);

• changes in eating, sleeping patterns and bad hygiene;

• unprovoked episodes of crying; and

• lowered self-esteem or feelings of guilt.