Stony Brook Student Leads Multi-School Suicide Prevention Rally

The struggle of young adults with anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges becomes more prominent with each passing year. For Vignesh Subramanian ‘24, a senior biology and psychology double major, the battle hit close to home after witnessing peers’ struggles with suicidal thoughts and experiencing the trauma of losing a loved a one to suicide.

“Eight years ago, I lost a very close friend to suicide, and in high school, I helped another overcome their self-harm attempts,” he said. “As an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) working on ambulances for over two years, I’ve also responded to dozens of 911 calls from young people exhibiting suicidal ideation, many of whom indicated that they felt they lacked a single person they could confide in about their suicidal thoughts.”

The experience has moved Subramanian to become a mental health advocate. In 2022, he founded One More Option (OMO), a student-led policy advocacy organization that works to expand children’s access to mental health and crisis resources and services. The group’s efforts focus on pushing state-level legislation to remove barriers to healthcare access, bolster safety nets and intervention strategies, and expand institutional accommodations and treatment options for young people who are struggling.

Suicide prevention group
Stony Brook President Maurie McInnis (center) was joined by Vignesh Subramanian (third from left) and USG President Devin Lobosco (third from right), along with representatives from other Long Island colleges at the rally.

On February 23, student leaders from seven colleges across Long Island rallied at Stony Brook University for suicide awareness and prevention. Subramanian said he was thrilled to lead an event in which student leaders, county and state lawmakers, and university administrators came together in a show of unity behind efforts to enact a statewide student suicide prevention law.

“Being able to fill the room with delegates from seven partner student governments from campuses across Long Island, CPO (Center for Prevention and Outreach) staff and volunteers, and elected and campus officials alike demonstrated just how many people are truly invested in bolstering youth mental health,” he said. “Seeing the collective response and extensive media attention the rally received is empowering. We believe that this sweeping consensus on the most effective, youth-centric approach to the issue, coupled with the growing regional and statewide media coverage of the initiative, will help ensure our message carries all the way to Albany.”

In the near term, Subramanian said he hopes to see an amended Student Suicide Prevention Act or substitute bill that includes college students enacted and fully implemented in New York that would take the form of a statewide mandate for public and private colleges and universities to have comprehensive suicide prevention, intervention, and postvention policies on their books, with clear guidelines and protocols informing staff on how to respond to students in behavioral or suicidal crisis. The existing suicide prevention act requires the governing board or body of every local educational agency serving students in grades seven to twelve, to adopt policies, procedures and guidelines on student suicide prevention, intervention and postvention for students in those grades.

Alternative photo president mcinnis
President Maurie McInnis addresses the suicide prevention rally on February 23.

“The years I’ve spent thinking about the warning signs that could have been caught has reinforced my belief that people suffering in silence are often best helped by equipping those around them to have open and earnest conversations about suicide,” he said. “Normalizing these conversations includes preparing those in close proximity to struggling youth — such as school faculty and staff — to meet them at the point of crisis and respond accordingly. I’ve dedicated my efforts to this cause to help do just that.”

Subramanian is grateful for the support he’s gotten from the Stony Brook community, especially Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis and Marisa Bisiani, associate vice president of Student Health, Wellness, and Prevention Services.

“I commend the tireless efforts of Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government and other student leaders on our campus as well as their peers across New York State who are shining a bright light on the critical issue of suicide prevention,” said McInnis, who spoke at the rally. “Stony Brook is determined to continue to be a leader in advocating for the mental health and well-being of every student in our community. I am grateful for extraordinary efforts across our campus to ensure our students have the resources and compassionate support systems needed each day to navigate their college years.”

Suicide prevention lobosco
USG president Devin Lobosco.

Shortly after his upcoming graduation, Subramanian said he will be submitting applications to medical schools and continue working in EMS and in the ER to further develop his clinical experience.

“Working as an EMT on the ground in multiple jurisdictions has been extremely fulfilling, and I am eager to continue serving my local communities by meeting and assisting those in need where they are,” he said. “I am also very interested in expanding my clinical skill set by beginning to work as an emergency room technician, deepening my familiarity with routine procedures within the scope of practice.”

As an advocate, he aims to replicate his current efforts in other states, also working with student leaders and lawmakers to introduce similar legislation that bolsters their own safety nets and intervention strategies for at-risk youth.

“Dozens of states still do not have laws requiring educational institutions to develop suicide prevention frameworks or specific accommodations for mental health,” he said. “I believe that a legislative victory here in New York can serve as a model for many to follow.”

— Robert Emproto

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