While Elizabeth Fleming, M’13, D’19, was pursuing her doctorate at Saint Mary’s, the unthinkable happened. She lost a close friend to suicide.
“When it happened, I went through all of the emotions, ‘Why didn’t I know what was going on’ or ‘Why didn’t I say something,’” said Fleming, who was a Psy.D. student at the time. “I found myself, someone with a master’s and seeking a doctorate in psychology, who didn’t know what to say. I thought if I don’t know what to say during a time like this, others probably don’t either.”
It was this experience that pushed Fleming to join the board of the Suicide Prevention Collaboration. The Suicide Prevention Collaboration was formed in 2010 after several teens died by suicide in Washington County. For the last 13 years, Suicide Prevention Collaboration has provided advocacy and education about mental illness, the warning signs of suicide, and the need for professional treatment.
“Our goal is to provide people with the right tools and the ability to ask the right questions to take the steps to prevent suicides,” she said.
Now serving as the board chair for the organization, Fleming says she regularly uses the skills she gained while going through both Saint Mary’s programs.
“One thing about Saint Mary’s Psy.D. program is that it’s very holistic, it looks at the whole person, not just one part of them,” Fleming said. “And I think that holistic part of it really helps me look at things from a lot of different angles. For example, when we’re doing advocacy or collaboration with other organizations, we look at whether an organization just focuses on mental health. Do they also focus on physical wellness or financial wellness?”
Fleming, who is a course-contracted professor at Saint Mary’s, has also encouraged Saint Mary’s graduate students to get involved in the Suicide Prevention Collaboration’s work. And for Fleming, their engagement has been a success for the organization.
“I’m so proud of these students,” she said. “They have made such an impact on marketing, and training, providing education, and creating fun events for us.”
Photo credit: Suicide Prevention Collaborative