Hi everyone! My name is Abbey Campbell and I am a student in the Peers REACHing Out professional cohort here at Ohio State. I had the pleasure of interviewing OSUSPP Assistant Director Laura Lewis and would love to share the details!
Abbey: Laura, would you please describe some of the work you do here with the Suicide Prevention Program?
Laura: Sure! So I am the assistant director- so really my role is the day to day functioning and managing all of our staff. With prevention being in our lane, it is just making sure that we are at a table everywhere we can be here at Ohio State. This is so that we can educate, do outreach, and advocate for suicide prevention and reducing mental health stigma. So to that end, while I am supervising staff doing that, it’s also about creating the mission and furthering our program with new opportunities by connecting with leaders on and off of our campus. I also sit on a lot of committees, work on projects with others across the university, and we are also involved in research. A lot of that research is on the projects that we do because it is important to know that what we are doing is, in fact, doing what we think it is doing. Additionally, I am supervising REACH trainings and REACH Out sessions, our graduate assistants with their “R U OK Buckeyes?” program, and our student interns. So overall, it is a lot of management but with a lot of creativity and collaboration.
Abbey: Yeah! For sure! Another question I am personally curious about: what pulled you towards doing this line of work? From what I understand you are a licensed clinical counselor, so what drew you to this area of work in comparison to other areas such as private practice, etc?
Laura: Well actually I own a private practice- with my husband actually- so that has been a part of my world for about 10 years now. I do that for about 8-10 hours a week in the evenings and on the weekends. Prior to coming to OSU, I worked at Capital University as their full-time counselor. However, when this position opened and was nudged my way, I couldn’t think of how amazing it would be to funnel my umbrella of mental health work down to a core area, suicide prevention. Also, being able to take my administrative skills that I wasn’t really using and starting to marry it with my mental health background here. This program was ready for the next level, and it was really exciting to think of how much I could learn. It was a bit intimidating because it was clear to me how hard people have worked and how many resources people have put into this program- and for it to be handed to me? It felt like a very intense new responsibility but what was more intense was the excitement of it and the prospect of doing all of that. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I can’t think of a better or more important thing than putting my time and energy into saving lives.
Abbey: I can really feel your passion and it is obvious you love what you do! What specifically makes your work so meaningful to you as an individual/person?
Laura: What first comes to mind is the partnerships. Ohio State is giant, and it is very common for people to be very good at their jobs but unaware of the opportunities that lie between them. But in suicide prevention- you have to be in the middle- that is how we save lives best. So for me, I love meeting new people, collaboration, and connecting with everybody in some fashion on campus. The way that we do suicide prevention here really matches my personality and style- so it is really meaningful for me. Additionally, we hear a lot of stories of how people’s lives are saved on this campus. It is incredibly rewarding and affirming to hear that our work is making an impact.
Abbey: Where do you find hope and healing in your work?
Laura: When we have moments when we can come together, virtual or not, there is a “spirit” attached to those types of gatherings. We are all there for the same reason- we’ve all been touched by suicide in some way. And to have an event where anybody is invited to unify around that and to provide hope and healing to each other are powerful moments. There is such intense love and passion in those, and it is re-energizing for me. It reminds me of how I have been touched by suicide as well and why this work is so important to me. It is in people’s stories and people’s commitment to our mission that gives me hope and drives me in believing that we really can make a difference.
Abbey: What does a “campus culture of care” mean to you?
Laura: To me, it means that there is not one single student, staff, or faculty member that feels alone. That everyone knows they have a place, this is their home, they belong, and they are welcomed and accepted. And when life feels tough, or there is some kind of barrier, that they do not feel like they have to jump over that by themselves. That people at a moments notice are here ready to walk with them but also celebrate the good things with them too. It is about resources and relationships. We can have the best counseling program in the country, but if people don’t feel like that is designed for them, it doesn’t matter. They’re not going to use it and people aren’t going to believe that they matter as much as they truly do. That stems from the importance of relationships and communication. So overall, a campus culture of care has a lot of good tricks, tools, tricks, people and resources in it- but we have to make that stuff come alive.
Abbey: Alright, last one! What is your favorite campus resource to use yourself or share with others?
Laura: I guess one that jumps to mind, primarily because it is new to the scene, it the PAL line. That idea was student-driven and it is a really unique way for students to connect with another student. It is really unique to our campus. It is neat to have piloted something here in the past few years brand new and having supported that. I hope that students see that the PAL line comes from students wanting to support other students. I know those volunteers are trained really well and it is a cool feature to our campus.
And there you have it everyone- Laura Lewis! I hope you all got to learn a bit about one of the many wonderful leaders in suicide prevention here on our campus!
Link to the Buckeye PAL line website: https://swc.osu.edu/services/buckeye-peer-access-line/
To reach the Buckeye PAL line, call: 614-514-3333
The Buckeye Peer Access Line (PAL) is a non-emergency talk line that provides a space for students to engage in brief phone conversations in order to gain support and learn about campus resources. Student volunteers are available to provide peer-to-peer assistance that promotes and enhances student development and wellbeing.