Taking Measures to Prevent Suicide

Sara Keen// Editor-in-Chief

 

Last week, Volunteer State Community College lost one of its students to suicide. In the hopes of avoiding another tragedy such as this, The Settler would like to provide some helpful advice to anyone experiencing thoughts of suicide or concerned that a friend may be.

College can be a stressful environment, between exams, essays, and managing time between school, work, and a social life. It may be overwhelming for some students, and it is important to remember that asking for help is okay.

Let someone know if you are experiencing these thoughts or if you are concerned about a friend. It could make a difference on a person’s life. Helping someone could be as simple as showing him or her that you care or that the person is important to you or others.

It can also help to find better ways to cope with feelings, stress or improve mental health. Sometimes it can help to write feelings out, or express what is causing them. You can learn more about yourself through this, and how you can cope with life and the world around you.

Others may choose art, such as painting or drawing. Therapists help their clients express emotions or calm their nerves using art. They are able to create a visual representation of how they feel.

For students who may not be inclined toward art or writing, physical activity can be helpful. Sunlight and exercise can often improve moods and can be helpful for people who want to take their focus away from what is bothering them.

The biggest thing that can help someone who might be considering suicide or even harming himself or herself, is to speak to someone.   It does not help you to isolate yourself from everyone.

Speak to your family, and if that is not possible, go to a close friend.   There are people who care, for everyone, and someone will help you.

Even if you do not feel comfortable going to someone you know for help, there is a multitude of resources now. There are suicide prevention lines, forums and even blogs.

For those who have difficult lives, or maybe have some awful experiences, there are resources for everything from abuse to rape.

We are fortunate enough to live in a time where people care, and do not want others to give up their lives or lose hope. Every person in the world is facing something, handling it differently, and will need to ask for help at some point or another.

Do not be ashamed of getting help for yourself.

 

Quote:
“We all have a little bit of ‘I want to save the world’ in us… I want you to know that it’s okay if you only save one person, and it’s okay if that person is you.”

 

Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network Phone Number:

(615) 297 – 1077

Person of Interest: Karen Pratt always ready to smile

Blake Bouza

 

Karen Pratt said she believes that a person can wake up in the morning and decide, “will I smile today? Or will I be a grouch?”

Pratt said she prefers to smile. “It’s just easier,” she said.

Students might have encountered Pratt’s warm, positive attitude during the lunch rush at the Volunteer State Grill. Pratt has quickly become a staple of the Grill, but she is not originally from Tennessee.

She grew up in Ticonderoga, New York, a town with only about 5,000 people.

Pratt got her Bachelor of Science degree at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh. From there she pursued her Master’s degree at Castleton State College in Vermont.

She went on to teach middle and high school students in the day, and is no stranger to the community college environment as she would teach nightly statistics classes at her town’s local community college.

Pratt retired in June of 2014 just before she and her husband decided to pick up and move to Tennessee.

“It was quite an adventure for us to do something like that, just pick up and go,” Pratt said with a smile.

Her husband got a job as a store manager at Lowe’s. “I didn’t really know anybody around the area,” said Pratt. “So I said, I gotta get out because all I’m doing is sitting here and talking to my dogs.”

When a few different career websites did not work for her, Pratt’s husband suggested she try Craiglist, where she saw the ad for work at the Vol State Grill.

“I started working in the kitchen in the winter of last year,” said Pratt. “I think they moved me to cashier probably because I was making too much of a mess in the kitchen.”

“There was flour all over the place and all over me. Nobody else was having that problem, so I think it was their nice way of telling me my place wasn’t in the kitchen,” Pratt said with a laugh.

Pratt, luckily, thrives when interacting with people, especially students.

“When I was teaching middle and high school I learned that you have to have a certain personality to reach kids,” Pratt said.

“If you can’t joke around with them, if you can’t smile, you won’t grab them. When I retired, I just had to go out and be with people. It became a part of me,” she said.

“You can tell that some people are going through things sometimes. One lady just lost a son. Another girl had a miscarriage. People go through a lot. You get a sense of it. Sometimes you look at them, and they seem down. If you give them a smile, they can’t help but smile back,” Pratt said.

Pratt has seen how stress affects students as the semester wears on. “One kid walked in and told me ‘I just had a midterm. I didn’t know we were having a midterm today,’” said said.

“I offer my assistance to help kids out with their math homework, but no one has taken me up on it yet,” Pratt said while laughing.

Pratt is not unaccustomed to volunteering her time to help others. When she was 24, Pratt joined the Peace Corps on an extended stay in northern Africa. She taught calculus to the locals there.

One night Pratt opened her eyes to see a man in her room.

“We were told, in the beginning, not to move or they might kill us. He took everything. Even our alarm clock.

“After eight months, I was ready to go home. I was glad to have the experience, but I chose to go home,” Pratt said.

Students can return Pratt’s welcoming smile every day of the week at the Vol State Grill.

Recognizing Volstate Staff Member Voorhies

Michaela Marcellino

 

Marguerite Voorhies has worked at Volunteer State Community College since the day it started, July 1, 1971 as Cataloging Librarian.

Vol State, called the historic Cordell Hull Hotel home in 1971.

Voorhies could recall when the current campus opened in Feb. 1972. The Library staff was responsible for moving the collection of books belonging to the School into the Ramer Administration Building using the “Book Truck.”

Of course, as Voorhies said, “Then, we had less books.” The Vol State Library again moved when Thigpen Library opened in 1994.

“Everybody in the beginning that I was so close to, because we were over there in the administration building, retired. I just refuse to retire, as long as I have my health and half a brain!” said Voorhies.

When she was just out of college, Voorhies started at the Blue Grass Regional Library in Columbia, TN. They had a book mobile, and “we would take the book mobile to post offices, really anywhere that would take us, banks, or whatever, and leave books for people,” said Voorhies. She spent two years working at Columbia State Community College before coming to Vol State.

Voorhies’ favorite thing about working at Vol State is “working with the students, and the Vol State family.”

“[The biggest change] is the growth of the student body and college personnel. We only had a few students then,” said Voorhies.

Donna Warden, who has worked in purchasing and acquisitions at the Vol State Library for 40 years, said her favorite memory of Voorhies was filming a skit for a Media Information Resources course.

The MIR course was a required course for all incoming freshman. In this particular video, Voorhies was dressed like a biker chick, and kept saying “Honda” instead of “Harley.”

“We kept telling her, no, Harley people don’t like Honda!”

“She is such a sweet and caring lady…she has a good heart,” said Warden.

Julie Brown, who is the Technical Services Librarian at Vol State, has been Voorhies’ supervisor since Jan. 2010.

“[Voorhies] continues to be a dedicated professional. I can only hope to be as active and sharp as her when I’m her age. She comes in to work every day…she really enjoys what she does,” said Brown.

Voorhies lives in Gallatin during the week, and commutes to and from Columbia on the weekends. She has a sister and three grand-nephews there that she “loves dearly.”

“What has stayed the same [in 44 years at Vol State] is the idea that the student comes first,” said Voorhies.

Annual Volstate Fall Festival a Success

Blake Bouza
Volunteer State Community College hosted its annual Fall Festival on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. in the Carpeted/Tiled Dining Room and the balcony.

Students received a ticket with seven squares upon entering one of the dining rooms. Participants in the Festival were asked to participate in at least three of the seven items listed on the ticket to get a free lunch. A lunch of hot dogs and condiments was served at 12:30 p.m. in the carpeted dining room on a first-come, first-serve basis.

According to Tabitha Sherrell, Coordinator of Student Activities, the idea of the event “is to offer fun activities along with interactive community service tables to encourage students, faculty, and staff to give back to the community.”

Community service tables included CAP (Children Are People) Hygiene Bags, where Service Learning and Artisan’s Alliance asked participants to fill Ziploc bags with deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste, and a toothbrush to donate to Children Are People.

Team Change and The Settler collaborated to create snack bags to donate to the Shalom Zone. Participants were asked to decorate a brown paper bag and fill it with three snack items to deliver to the Shalom Zone.

Free HIV testing was offered to students in the cafeteria.

Phi Theta Kappa, Spectrum, and the Psychology Club operated a table on the balcony where participants were asked to stuff an animal to donate to hospitalized children for the Stuff-A-Plush table.

Sarah Naleby said this in particular hit close to home for her as she picked stuffing out of a large cardboard box and pushed it into the opening on the back of a plush Cocker Spaniel.

“I was in the hospital three weeks before Christmas,” said Naleby. “I remember getting toy donations like this from the local colleges.

“Even Tim McGraw gave us kids some Target gift cards,” said Naleby while laughing. “I am happy to return the favor to kids in need.”

Games were led by the Music Club and the African-American Student Union, including a ping pong table, corn hole, spider ring toss, and pumpkin toss.

Free caricature sketches were offered in the cafeteria while a free photobooth was set. According to Sherrell, students could get their picture taken with friends and a fall themed photo strip was printed out for the students to keep.

The photo and caricature booths were sponsored by the National Society of Leadership & Success, the college republicans, and Returning Student Organization.

Costume Contest Winners

Abigail Brogden

On Thursday October, 31 2015, Student Life and Diversity Issues hosted a costume contest in the dinning hall. Many students and even faculty participated in this event. There was a diversity of different costumes. First place went to Sara Malaby, who dressed up as Sally from Tim Burtons Nightmare before Christmas. Malaby went all out for this costume including body paint and fake scars. Second place went to Bean Graves as a Lasario character.

Halloween Story Contest: Schrodinger’s Man

By Kevin Yeargin

 

The following is a transcription of audio recovered from the tape recorder of Johan Verner. In the interest of public safety, the tape and every physical remnant of the experiment have been destroyed. In the interest of science, this transcription remains in the custody of the U.S. government.

VERNER [11:45 AM, Thursday]: Hello, my name is Johan Verner. I am a particle physicist here at Venkman Labs, and I am conducting what I hope to be a monumental experiment on quantum superposition. I am sequestered here inside a 20 ft. by 30 ft. bunker 1000 ft. underground. And I have with me here a device of my own design which should create a closed quantum field around the bunker, effectively turning its walls into the boundaries of a new universe. Honestly, I have no idea what will happen. Might be nothing. Could really be something. In approximately 10 minutes, I will turn the machine on. Then I will report back at 12:30 PM.

VERNER [12:30 PM, Thursday]: Well, the machine has been on for 30 minutes. I observe no physical changes. [light static, indistinct voice?] I will continue to observe the environment and, if nothing changes, report back at 4:00 PM.

VERNER [3:41 PM, Thursday]: Incredible. Absolutely incredible. Just… incredible.

VERNER [4:00 PM, Thursday]: Umm, hmm. I, uh, have discovered a strange phenomenon that I will attempt to describe here. Physical contact with the walls produces some sort of rippling effect, almost as if I were touching… I don’t know, touching water.

VOICE [4:01 PM, Thursday]: W-w-w-water.

VERNER [4:01 PM, Thursday]: Did you hear that? I will, umm, I will play the recording back to see if it picked up that voice. I will report back in one hour at the latest.

VOICE [4:02 PM, Thursday]: L-l-l-latest.

No further recordings Thursday.

No further recordings Friday.

VERNER [3:31 AM, Saturday]: I’ve just had… I’ve just…

VERNER [7:55 AM, Saturday]: I was right. I was so right. The experiment is a success. I have just made first contact with another form of intelligence. We talked for hours about Mozart, about elementary physics, about nothing at all! It was so engrossing that I did not sleep for the past, what is it, two days?! I will get some rest and then attempt to communicate further with my new friend. He does look tired. He is now sitting in the corner of the room, behind the bed. He is not looking at me.

VOICE [7:57 AM, Saturday]: [indistinct screaming, language unknown]

VOICE [8:43 PM, Saturday]: [whispering] Johan… Johan… [static]

No further recordings Saturday.

No further recordings Sunday.

No further recordings Monday.

No further recordings Tuesday.

No further recordings Wednesday.

UNKNOWN [11:00 AM, Thursday]: I am.

ASSISTANT [11:30 AM, Thursday]: [indistinct rustling] [hatch opens] Got it. Dr. Verner? The lights are off. What’s that smell? [flick of the light switch, rustling continues] Oh my god. I can’t, no… no!

End of recording.

The bodies of Dr. Johan Verner and his assistant were never recovered. The bunker was destroyed with dynamite, and the shaft leading to the bunker was filled with cement.

Halloween Story Contest: The Quiz

April Young

It was the stuff of nightmares. My alarm sounded five times that morning, yet I’d slept through each alert. By the time I was in my car, tying my shoes as I navigated the busy commute, I was already late for class. The professor had hinted at a quiz, and while I’d barely glanced over the assigned reading, I hoped to get by on my brilliant ability to guess and my artistic flair; maybe a smiling velociraptor at the top of the page would convince the professor to go easy on me.

It must’ve been Perfect Attendance Day on campus. Passing through the gates, I realized  the only thing less likely than earning an ‘A’ today was finding a parking spot. I circled each lot like an exhaust-spewing buzzard, begrudgingly giving way to a group at the crosswalk. My foot itched over the gas pedal.

I gave up with a growl and returned to the highway, flying through a yellow light and sliding into the Publix lot. I scowled at the brightly colored decal on my back windshield.

Greasy spots on the pavement don’t have to take quizzes, I thought optimistically as I put one foot over the yellow line on Nashville Pike. Someone must’ve fired a racing pistol. Every lane came alive! I made a mad dash across two of the five lanes, horns blowing from every direction. The turning lane opened just as I reached it. I closed my eyes and lunged across the final two lanes, surprised when I finally felt grass under my feet.

My heart beat wildly as I entered Ramer. It didn’t slow down as I noticed the ominous quiet. Were some of the lights out? Where was everyone?

A check of my watch gave me hope: only an hour late. My professor probably wouldn’t notice. I slipped into the classroom and took the only open desk, right in front.

“Quiz time!” my professor trilled.

I breathed a sigh of relief but immediately began to choke. I hung my head as I pictured my backpack tucked into the passenger seat of my car.

The girl to my right gave me a look of disgust when I asked for paper. The girl to my left threw the pen I requested at my head, narrowly missing my eye. I waited for the first question. It never came—at least, not in a language I understood. My professor made a series of sounds, and my classmates began to scribble furiously. “What are they writing?” a voice in my head screamed. I slammed my head against the desk. I was going to fail—at life!

I awoke with a cry. It had been a nightmare. I wasn’t late, and I wouldn’t fail the quiz. I was going to give the quiz. My students had no idea.

I giggled as I tucked my hooves into loafers and brushed my hair over my horns. I grabbed my pitchfork on the way out. It was going to be a great day.

Halloween Story Contest: Bonds In Silk

Blake Bouza

Dying is not peaceful. Not when you can feel two tons of metal squeezing your suddenly fragile body into the unyielding earth, not when you have adrenaline coursing through your veins like a freight train barreling down tracks.

First, there is the chaos as events leading to death suddenly spiral out of human control; the car whirling through the air, the sudden stop, the screeching of metal, a fiery flash of pain, the fluids that flood your mouth as your skull cracks -

- and I do not so much wake up on the table as I become aware that I am lying on it. A single, soft-lit light bulb swings overhead. When the bulb reaches the end of one swing, an accompanying tap resounds in the space I am in, like a nail on metal.

I cannot hear my heartbeat.

“My child,” says a deeply masculine voice in the softest of whispers that flutters against my eardrums like silk against the precious flesh of a newborn.

My back arches as a throat-searing scream rips from my mouth. I taste blood.

Shh. Shhhh.

Screams give way to whimpers. My throat burns.

“What?” I whisper hoarsely.

I feel its silken voice within me this time. Don’t be afraid, soothes the silk. Where had I heard that before? I want to give you your life back. To help me save the world. I need only one thing from you.

I don’t think. “No.”

The silk coils. Throat hurt?

The question catches me off guard. “Yes, it does.”

A warm, thick peppermint flavor floods my mouth, filling my sinuses with its refreshing aroma. My mouth instantly waters and I swallow.

It begins to burn. I try to gasp but my mouth and esophagus are on fire. Flames lick at my innards. My eyeballs burst into bright coronas of flame and when I open my mouth to shriek in perfect agony, fire plumes from my throat. There is no journey through a dark graveyard, no reliving the worst moments of my life. Just fire. Past, present, and future are only words. I see myself burn for an eternity for the instant the flame touches me.

Somewhere near the end/beginning of this torment, I am flung back onto the table. Naked, leaking everywhere.

I will return you to your existence, the silk breathes, as though the interim between its last words had been only a minor annoyance. You will go back to your friends, your family, your immoralities that plague the human existence. A single tap punctuates these words. There is a condition. In return for your continued existence, you will give me exactly one day, twenty-four hours, of your life. Gooseflesh rises along my arm as I feel the silk smile. Or you can stay with me down here.

“What does that mean?” I whisper.

The silk sighs beneath my skin. For one day of your life, you will be mine. Anything I wish of you. You cannot say no. I want you to blow up a building, you do it. I want you to donate to the Salvation Army, you will do it. No question.

I cannot stay here. “Yes.” My voice breaks.

A kiss, then. The silk ripples. To seal the deal.

An invisible force throws me to my feet. I blink rapidly but all I see is darkness before me. When I am embraced, I feel breasts press against my chest. My mind banishes the kiss from memory. All I recall is a slow song reaching a crescendo.

The light bulb bursts and I am blown backward into existence.

Halloween Story Contest: Quills

Jack Butler

In silence, Elizabeth rose from the quaint darkness of her bedroom.  Her waist robe clung to her hips and followed her feminine grace like silky, white honey.  She pulled at the drapes and peeked through a slit as the world burned in ultraviolet flames.  With a slow and wistful breath, she stretched, brushed the auburn hair from her deep green eyes.  A mélange of images and the cool dampness of the evening seemed like a memory to her, but never a promise.

As the crescent moon ascended the jagged peaks of the snow capped mountains, she flung open the wooden door and ran into the blossoming night.  Silver and blue moonlight rained to earth, sizzled as it cooled the day’s heat.  She danced in the radiance as it splashed her face and dripped from her long eyelashes, her almond shaped eyes captured the enchantment of her world.  Elizabeth froze, raised her head and sniffed the wind.  The late October breeze brought the scent of the Beast of Quills.  Sometimes the beast killed without reason and sometimes it licked the bones.  Still a child, her mother yelled at her to keep running as a quill tore into her mother’s chest.  She knew she couldn’t afford to look back and stopped only when the last of her tears ran out.  

Suddenly, Elizabeth heard the sound of a quill splitting the air in front of her.  She turned to run just as a quill shredded the delicate lace of her wings.  Another grazed her stomach and a fourth blasted through the flesh of her upper arm.  A searing heat slammed into her right leg while another plunged into her back and lodged in her left lung, stifling her scream as she fell.  She could hear a cacophony of demonic voices as the beast drew down upon her.  The quills dragged through the dirt leaving sticky canals of blood as she pulled herself to a fallen log, laid her head against the rough bark.  Her breath came in ragged gulps as a deep crimson froth streamed from her lips.  Dark red dripped from her breasts and pooled by her side.  

Elizabeth turned her head and gazed at the clouds stealing the moonlight.  “Please, father,” she prayed, teeth chattering from the pain.  Thick clouds slipped away and moonlight bathed her face with a gentle flowing mist.  The whippoorwill’s songs played in her mind while the frolicking laughter of the forest animals rang in her ears.  She could smell the fragrance of the white and purple flowers near the lake but longed to feel a mother’s joy.  Warm arms wrapped around her as she tasted the sweetness of the blood throbbing in her lover’s veins.  Elizabeth never felt the quill that split her heart in two.

“Does not seem proper, Sir Richard, killing something this beautiful just to see it dead.”  

“And what would you have us do with her…them, Master Thomas?  She was just a damn vampire.”  

Halloween Story Contest: Five Minutes

Barry Waggoner

But I did nothing to die for.  I keep repeating that in my mind.  The seconds are going by, tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.  I have a mere five minutes in which to live.  But I did nothing to die for, I repeat in my mind.  I know why I have to die, but it makes it no easier to process.  Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.  I slowly get up from my chair.  I have no choice but to walk to the airlock knowing I have but few minutes to live.  Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.

Do I blame the person who is going to kill me?  Do I hate him?  No.  I know that if I do not die now, then he and I will die in a fiery crash and six others will die if they don’t get the serum this little ship is carrying.  I could never be so selfish as to try to live just for an hour longer.  Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.  I am too young to die, or so I thought.  I had my whole life in front of me, my brother would have been there in a year and we would have been happy.  I am only eighteen, a mere child.  Unfortunately, to nature I am a cold equation. I am something that has to be put right or more than I shall die.

Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.  I am in the airlock now.  He says nothing as I walk by the man that is going to kill me.  What can he say?  What can I say?  I know this is difficult for him though he gets to live and I did nothing to die for.  I want to see his face, but cannot through the tears in my eyes.  The airlock is so cold, yet only a small taste of what is to come in mere moments.  Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.

He shuts the door and I am in total darkness.  Any stoic thoughts or ideas I may have had, flees from me now.  I am so very glad I was able to talk to my brother, I know this will be hard for him and for my parents but they will survive.  I try not to think about my imminent death.  Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock.  I hear the inner door lock.  I take a deep breath, knowing it will do me no good, a force of habit.  The outer door begins to open and I feel the pull of vacuum upon me.

I hit my back on the opening door and lose the breath I held, knowing I shall never be able to take another breath.  I am in terrible pain.  The worst pain I have ever had in my young life.  The vacuum of space is not easy on the human body.  I feel like I am going to explode!  I quickly fade away as death mercifully starts dragging me with it.  I have one last agonizing though:  But I did nothing to die for.

 

Tick, tock, tick, tock, ti-