SAAC Takes on Suicide Prevention

Although September is Suicide Prevention month, the Student Athletic Advisory Committee (SAAC) hosts trainings and meetings, emphasizing the importance to highlight suicide prevention all year round. These meetings consist of numerous counselors, coordinators, directors and representatives of different sports teams.

On Tuesday, Sept. 15 the committee had their first virtual meeting, explaining various methods and strategies to help people who might be thinking about suicide. AU Health and Wellness Coordinator Amanda Khodorkovskaya and Mental Health Counselor Janna Buckwalter presented multiple PowerPoints that contained facts, statistics and information about suicide, along with how to prevent it.

AU welcomes change, through the ability to fight systemic racism, ethnic inequality, and by supporting the LGBTQ+ community. By approaching change through our community on campus, we can further prevent any discrimination that may influence a person’s mental health. These factors can directly impact a person’s life and well-being; therefore, AU strives to bring light on the situation, making it known that change is needed.

“I welcome [everyone’s] thoughts, passions, and voices when promoting mental health. I have been so energized by the youth in our country and the way they have approached change,” said Athletic Director Paul Vecchio. “Mental health awareness starts with us.”

Over the years, the number of suicides has increased nationwide. Specifically, college students have a greater chance of experiencing mental health issues, rather than people who are not enrolled in college. Suicide has a lot of different causes, such as stress, loss of a loved one, substance abuse, struggling with sexual identity orientation, trauma and any family history having to do with mental health. These things increase the likelihood of someone self-harming or committing suicide.

“It is important to target factors of suicide, especially in college students and athletes, because they experience the most when it comes to causes of self-harm and wanting to kill themselves. I chose to train the SAAC representatives so they can become QPR (Question, Persuade, Response) certified, since they are the leaders of their sports teams and have an important role on campus. It has shown to be a very effective program to prevent suicide attempts and completions,” said Khodorkovskaya.

The overall purpose of the training was to get the committee more aware of the issue of suicide and to learn different ways of effectively helping those in need who may be suicidal. An important goal of the meeting was to allow the SAAC representatives to feel more comfortable and confident when spotting signs of suicidal individuals, as well as how to get them the help they need.

“SAAC is a group of leaders in our athletic department and campus, therefore, should have the knowledge about suicide and its prevention. Our committee has the chance to break the stigma surrounding mental health illnesses and learn to help teammates or friends who may be dealing with this issue,” said SAAC President Holly Passetti. “It’s important to ask questions, make comments, and learn new things about such a difficult topic.”

If you or someone you know needs counseling services, please email Amanda Khodorkovskaya at, or Janna Buckwalter at For any other concerns or needs, you can contact AU’s Wellness Center at (607)-871-2400, or for any suicidal thoughts call the Suicide Hotline at (800)-273-8255.

By Kailey Reyes


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