Student Counseling Center, Nikki’s Fund partner in suicide prevention awareness at The U

VERMILLION, S.D. -- The University of South Dakota, together with Nikki’s Fund, wants students to know that there is help even when a situation seems helpless. That’s why the USD Student Counseling Center, Sanford Vermillion and Nikki’s Fund, an organization that supports suicide prevention programs and medication needs for USD students, are working collectively to increase suicide awareness during National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 7-13.

For the second consecutive year, National Suicide Prevention Week activities at The U will commence with the Nikki’s Fund 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Awareness at 9 a.m. on Sept. 6 at Prentis Park in Vermillion. Last year, more than 90 individuals participated in the first Nikki’s Fund 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Awareness. Nikki’s Fund was founded in memory of Nicole Vallie Harris, who suicided June 15, 2005. Nikki is the daughter of Janine Harris, manager of the Al Neuharth Media Center.

"Because of Nikki’s Fund, more USD students are seeking help for depression and have access to preventative programs when it comes to suicidal ideation," noted Matt Stricherz, director of the USD Student Counseling Center. "It’s really made a difference for our students."

Additional activities planned for the week include a forum at the Al Neuharth Media Center at noon on Sept. 11. Elizabeth Boyd, Ph.D., an associate professor of clinical psychology at The U, will provide the keynote address. There will also be an on campus informational booth to distribute pre-, inter- and postvention suicide materials; and a two-day Lakota Perspectives in Mental Health and Suicide Prevention seminar from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Al Neuharth Media Center, Sept. 11-12. Individuals who have committed suicide will also be recognized with a vigil and a talking circle during the Red Road Gathering, Sept. 18-20, at the Vermillion 4-H Center.

Registration forms for the Nikki’s Fund 5K Run/Walk for Suicide Awareness are available at the USD Student Counseling Center, which is located in room 336 inside Julian Hall; the Temporary Student Center on USD’s campus; or participants can complete a registration form the day of the event at Prentis Park beginning at 8 a.m. Prizes will be awarded to first and second places in the male and female categories of 15 and under, 16 to 25 years old, 26 to 54 years old, and 55 and over. T-shirts and refreshments are also provided. All proceeds from the 5K run/walk, including donations and a $10 registration fee per participant, will be donated to Nikki’s Fund.

"Suicide claims the lives of 30,000 people each year. That’s a staggering number, especially because it can be prevented," explained Stricherz. "It’s very important that our students know that through Nikki’s Fund and the Student Counseling Center, USD is committed to suicide prevention and raising awareness in order to let students know that help is here for them."

For more information or to register for the 5K, please contact Kristin Bruns with the USD Counseling Center at (605) 677-5777 or via e-mail at Kristin.Bruns@usd.edu.