MU talks suicide prevention

Dave Romano of Active Minds spoke at MU Wednesday night to discuss the stigmas associated with mental illness in young men.

In Duluth, Minnesota several years ago, an overwhelmed, high school sophomore decided he wanted to end his life.

Dave Romano was considered popular in school. He was successful in most aspects of his life and did not appear upset on the outside. In the end, Romano did not go through with the decision. He instead decided to dedicate his life to breaking social stigmas associated with mental illness in young men.

Romano spoke to MU students, faculty and staff Wednesday evening in Stotler Lounge about mental illness and suicide prevention.

“This meeting isn’t about me,” Romano said. “It’s about me starting a conversation here about mental health.”

Romano is an ambassador for Active Minds, a non-profit company whose mission is to drastically cut down on the number of suicides on college campuses.

Jordan Allen, a junior psychology major, related with Romano’s message and story.

“I suffered with similar problems when I was younger, and I want to get involved in the same way he has with breaking social stigmas,” Allen said.

The importance of Romano’s message is in the numbers: suicide rates in men are nearly four times that of women in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The impact of that fact was shown when nearly every person in attendance raised their hand when Romano asked if they knew someone who had taken their own life.

Romano said he believes this staggering prevalence of suicide and any other form of self-injury, especially in men, is largely due to men believing they have to live up to some unspoken standard of manliness.

In fact, when he was a child, he said he looked up to his burly, tough father and tried to emulate him, which only reinforced his drive to try to be someone he was not.

Andrew Gillen, a co-advisor for Active Minds Mizzou, said he agreed with Romano, but on a more specific scale.

“There’s an issue specifically in Missouri with men not seeking the help they need,” Gillen said.

Through the speeches he delivers across the country as a member of Active Minds’ National Speakers Bureau, Romano said he aims to put an end to this problem in Missouri and throughout the country. He said the key to reaching this goal comes from word of mouth, and students having these discussions.

After Romano planned his own suicide in high school, he thought about all the friends and family he would be leaving behind if he did so, and that was enough to motivate him not to go through with it. However, he continued to struggle through depression, and it was not until he began regularly meeting with a counselor that he began to feel better about himself.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in adults ages 18-24, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

“It’s not mental illness that’s killing people, it’s the stigma,” Romano said. “It’s your responsibility to find help for yourself and others. It just takes one person to save a life.”

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