By Eric Matthews–

U of L will host events this week to promote the launch of its Cards SPEAK suicide prevention program.

Cards SPEAK (Suicide Prevention, Education, Awareness and Knowledge) launches Sept. 8 with a lecture for faculty and staff on how to recognize and respond to students who may be at risk for suicide.

Mental health advocate Hakeem Rahim will speak in Strickler Hall Wednesday on how to cope with mental illness and convey a message of hope, informed by his own experiences.

Events culminates Thursday with the “Lift Up Fair” outside the Red Barn from 8 a.m. to noon. There, students can learn about Cards SPEAK and related programs while enjoying music, games and refreshments. Cards SPEAK makes its Health Sciences Campus debut on Friday with a tabling event at the Kornhauser library.

“The combined goals of the launch and week-long events are to draw attention to the problem of suicide on college campuses, to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide, to encourage those individuals experiencing distress to seek mental health assistance and train our community in how to assist those in need of help,” Cards SPEAK Coordinator, Tracie Meyer, said.

The program aims to equip students, faculty and staff to notice and respond to fellow cardinals’ signs of suicidal thoughts and behavior through a number of training programs.

Programs include the Kognito online module, which participants can complete at their own pace, and an in-person Question-Persuade-Refer training which offers a more thorough approach. Administrators hope that eventually 80 percent of the campus community will have received some kind of suicide prevention training.

As an incentive, students who complete the Kognito training during September will be eligible to win a prize.

Cards SPEAK is funded by a $297,000 Garret Lee Smith Suicide Prevention grant offered through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, financing the initiative until Sept. 2018. An advisory committee comprised of faculty, staff and students from all three campuses will guide some programs Cards SPEAK will offer, including strategies specifically tailored to the LGBT and military/veteran communities, who are especially impacted by suicidal thoughts and behavior.

“I think it’s a good resource to have on campus, especially because a lot of times, the suicide hotlines and things like that can seem very impersonal,” said LGBT Center ambassador Jordan Lyons, a Sophomore. “To have something on campus where it’s not too far away, it seems a bit more personal and in your life.”

Cards SPEAK will host further events throughout the year, including its annual “Out of Darkness” awareness march in the spring.