“Rita Project” to Bring Suicide Awareness Message to OSU Oct. 23-24


CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Rita Project, a national initiative on suicide awareness and education, will bring its message to Oregon State University on Oct. 23-24 in an event called “Transforming Grief into Hope.”

The two-day event will feature public lectures, a hands-on art therapy studio, and training for OSU’s professional staff of counselors and educators who work with students. A goal of the Rita Project is to use art as one vehicle to help the “survivors” of suicide – either a person who has attempted suicide, or the family or friends of someone who has attempted or died by suicide – transform their lives.

Bringing the issues into the public spotlight is difficult, but important, experts say.

“Silence doesn’t protect anyone,” said Ellen Taylor, director of OSU Counseling and Psychological Services. “People need to talk about these issues, especially since suicide is the second leading cause of death, after accidents, of college students.”

The Rita Project began in New York and has spread to Los Angeles and elsewhere. The non-profit organization uses the concept of “art therapy” to explore issues relating to suicide by hosting a hands-on Rita Studio, where participants often express themselves more freely through art than through spoken or written words.

The OSU visit will feature presentations about the Rita Project that are open to the public. They are scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon and 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Oct. 23, both in the Memorial Union Ballroom and are free of charge. The presentation will feature art therapist Jen Mauro, psychologist and author Lisa Machoian, and Rita Project founder Kim Strouse, who will discuss the project, depression, at-risk behaviors and suicide.

Also free and open is an art exhibit and reception in the Memorial Union Lounge on Oct. 24 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The exhibit will feature art from two hands-on Rita Studio sessions, set for Oct. 23, from 6 to 11 p.m., and Oct. 24, from 9 a.m. to noon. These are open to OSU students, staff and faculty who would like to express their personal thoughts on suicide through art. Pre-registration for these sessions is required by Oct. 20, and can be done online at: http://uhds.oregonstate.edu/cgi-bin/survey3/rws3.pl?FORM=YouAreNotAlone

The Rita Project visit to OSU dovetails with another effort on suicide awareness. The seven Oregon University System institutions, plus Oregon Health & Science University, received a federal Garrett Lee Smith grant to develop the Oregon University Suicide Prevention Program. The grant program was contained in legislation authored by U.S. Sen. Gordon Smith of Oregon. Smith’s senate colleagues named the legislation after his son, Garrett, who battled depression and took his own life in September of 2003.

More information on the Rita Project is available at: http://www.ritaproject.org/