On Wednesday, Sep. 12 in the Noel Studio, students, professors and members of the public came together in light of one subject: suicide. The event occurred on National Suicide Prevention Week which is an annual week long campaign which encourages discussion on suicide and its prevention. The year, the event lasted from Sep. 9 to Sep. 15.

The event, called ArtVention, is in its second year and invites people to express their experiences with suicide through art. ArtVention is sponsored through the EKU SAFE Grant, or Suicide Awareness and Focus on Education Grant.

When the community arrived to the event, they were asked to place their hands in glue and then on a piece of linen. When the glue dried, the hand prints disappeared, but when painted over, the hand prints reappeared. The EKU SAFE Grant’s project coordinator, Judy Vandevenne, said this “sign in” was representative of how hidden, yet everlasting the effects of suicide can be.

“Those people that we’ve lost to suicide are still with us, and that experience continues to shape our lives,” Vandevenne said.

Attendees were also encouraged to make art to help them share their stories with suicide. Attendees could choose to make a flag or  a collage themed around “before and after” an attempt or an act of suicide that touched their lives. Those collages now hang in front of the Psychology Clinic in the Cammack Building, where Vandevenne says  they will stay until later on in the semester.

The flags made by attendees can now be seen on the entry floor of  Cammack. Hogan Gagle, a first-year clinical doctoral student in the EKU clinical psychology program said his flag centers around the semicolon, which is symbolic for a person who considered suicide - an end to their story -  but chose to carry on. Gagle said the event is an important step to opening up conversation about such a touchy subject.

“It’s a really great event to help bring awareness to such a taboo topic that is so associated with stigma,” Gagle said.

Skylar Barger, a junior psychology major and art minor, attended the event for the second year in a row. Barger, whose artwork centered around the positives of life, said that events like this help to provide a safe space for people to share their stories.

“It’s just so important that people talk about it and that you’re not scared to talk about it,” said Barger.

Vandevenne encourages students to stop by the psychology department and to view the artwork made at ArtVention. Gagle said these pieces of art tell more than some will ever know.

“I really encourage everybody to go the the psychology department and to look at the flags, look at the collages, look at the hand print art and just to take a second to take it in. It’s just a snippet, but it tells so much of a person’s story,” Gagle said.

Vandevenne said she hopes to eventually showcase the artwork on a national stage, which has been done in previous years. For now, the artwork will stay on campus.

For more information about the program contact Judy Vandevenne at judy.vandevenne@eku.edu. If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact the EKU counseling center at 859-622-1303.

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