September 19, 2019 | 52° F

Following the death of a Rutgers student, CAPS outlines its suicide prevention resources


Irisa Selfo, a School of Arts and Sciences junior at Rutgers, died by suicide earlier this month. In an email responding to the situation, the Univerity's  Chancellor Debasish Dutta reminded students of the services offered by the Rutgers Student Counseling, ADAP and Psychiatric Services (CAPS).

Earlier this month, Irisa Selfo, a School of Arts and Sciences junior at Rutgers, died by suicide. 

In an interview with TapInto, Irisa’s older sister, Marinela Selfo, said that warning signs of Irisa's depression were not overtly evident, and that she was generally a quiet person. 

Irisa seemed detached before passing, Marinela Selfo said. As a double major in biology and women’s and gender studies, Irisa Selfo had an extremely heavy course load, which her family partially attributed her level of stress and anxiety to, among other things like childhood bullying. 

Earlier today, Rutgers—New Brunswick Chancellor Debasish Dutta sent out an email to the Rutgers community regarding Irisa Selfo's passing. 

"I am saddened by the news of Irisa’s death, and I hope you will join me in offering your thoughts and prayers to her family and friends," he said. 

In the email, he highlighted the fact that students should know that counselors are available through Rutgers Student Counseling, ADAP and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) to any student seeking grief or general support. 

These issues are more prominent among students at Rutgers than is openly discussed, according to a spokesperson for CAPS.

The center offers a variety of counseling services to students that are tailored to address their most pressing concerns, including individual and group psychotherapy, psychiatric services, crisis intervention and referrals to community specialists. 

As a community, students can help others by being aware of the warning signs of suicide and taking them seriously, CAPS officials said in a email. 

“A common myth is that if I talk about suicide I might give someone the idea. This is not true and we find that bringing up the topic is one of the most helpful things you can do,” the CAPS officials said.

They said asking someone directly about thoughts of suicide can reduce shame, help them feel understood and assist with a connection to professional support. If members of the community as friends, peers, roommates and partners are aware that suicide occurs, they are more readily able to show their concerns and lead someone to help, which can save their life. 

Being able to pick out warning signs of suicidal thoughts or tendencies is the first step to preventing it. 

Some warning signs for suicide include talking about self harm or killing one’s self, talking or writing about death or dying a significant amount and seeking out weapons and drugs, or other things that can be used in a suicide attempt, according to

The CAPS officials said that some good tips to consider when talking to a friend who shows warning signs of suicide are asking questions about what is concerning them and paraphrasing their thoughts back to them to make sure they understand what their friends are saying.

CAPS recently started a community-based program to reduce barriers and increase access for wellness, which can assist those who might not feel comfortable coming into one of our two CAPS locations. The officials said that one element of this program is the “Let’s Talk” hours in which the counselors provide informal drop-in support.  

“Let’s Talk” hours and locations can be found online or students can schedule a time by calling the office. Word has spread about this wonderful service and since the beginning of the semester, more than 80 students have come to talk.

The officials said that many people who experience suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide never realize the impact that their life has on friends, peers, family and partners until they get help. 

“As a result of these countless similarities, we can prevent suicide by intervening at different levels and we can remember that we all matter to those around us,” they said. 

Community-based Approaches to Suicide Prevention Steering (CASP) is a CAPS group that consists of a variety of staff within different departments who are interested in helping prevent suicide, the officials said. Through this committee, CAPS offers Campus Connect Suicide Prevention training, which is a free, evidence-based, community-oriented training program available to staff, faculty and students. People who partake in the program learn about “mental health, potential signs of suicide and practical skills for initiating a conversation with students in a crisis and making appropriate referrals to CAPS.”

CAPS, in collaboration with Residence Life and other departments at Rutgers, trains more than 550 students on these things every year, and the number continues to grow. 

“Since we know that it takes a village to prevent suicide, collaboration on efforts to improve wellness on campus are essential,” the officials said.

Stephen Weiss

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