LifeSavers program designed to prevent suicide at UWEC

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Peer-to-peer suicide prevention. That's the idea behind the LifeSavers program on the UW-Eau Claire campus. One student is committed to the program and helping others.

According to a study by the CDC, suicide rates for people ages 10 to 24 grew by 56% during the last decade. UWEC has implemented a program called the Suicide Prevention and Research Collaborative, or S.P.A.R.C, to connect students who may be struggling with help.

“I had no idea this even existed when I first came here. I transferred and applied to the social work program because after that experience with my mental illness and recovery, I developed a passion for mental health,” said UWEC senior Lira Fuguet.

Fuguet is also a student presenter for LifeSavers, a program designed to get students to talk with one another about the signs of suicide and mental illness.

“Not only are you trying to still get good grades and maybe get your first job, but you're also trying to figure out how to be in adult relationships for the first time in your life, you have a bank account, how to feed yourself, and make money,” Fuguet said.

After extensive training, LifeSavers presenters deliver a 50-minute program when invited. The program is designed to teach students how to recognize the signs someone is struggling, how to ask about it, and how to refer that person to professional help.

Fuguet has a special connection to the program. As a freshman at St. Catherine University in Minneapolis, she developed mental health problems, which led her to leave college.

“A lot of depression, anxiety, some personality disorder symptoms and that led to me at the end of my first year dropping out of St. Kate's,” she said.

After three years of treatment, Fuguet is scheduled to graduate from UWEC in December 2020 with a double major in Social Work and Psychology. She said her experience with mental illness helps her connect at a deeper level with those students who may be overwhelmed.

“Because I struggle with that, because I did attempt, twice, I know what it's like to be there and I know what it's like to get better,” she said. “To me, the biggest reward is being able to take the worst time in my life and turn it into something beneficial.”

Since LifeSavers was launched eight years ago, more than 8,300 students have attended the training. Fuguet says if the stigma around mental health was to change, more people may get the help they need.