UI fraternity bringing awareness to mental health after brother's suicide

Published: Nov. 22, 2019 at 9:45 PM CST
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Members of the University of Iowa chapter of Phi Delta Theta are responding to the death of one of their brothers earlier this month.

UI senior and Xavier High School alumnus Jeff Vipond died by suicide on November 10th, and his brothers are focusing on supporting mental health in his memory.

"If we could be half the person Jeff was then we are doing something right,” said Kavrin McGuire, one of Jeff’s fraternity brothers. "We could always just talk to him. He was always someone who wanted to make someone laugh," he added.

Jeff's death was unexpected. The past couple of weeks, they say it's been a difficult time in their house and on campus, but it's brought them together.

"We've really seen our house, whether it’s seniors or the incoming freshman class, we've all really been able to bond together," McGuire said.

He says they’ve also been able to bring light to the serious issue of mental health on college campuses.

"As a 19-year-old, 20-year-old guy, you think you are the king of the world. You're in a frat and walking around campus and want to be this macho man, but if you are going home every night and you can't look yourself in the mirror and say I'm happy, that's an issue," said McGuire.

It’s an issue that the Executive Director on the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Linn County says is only getting worse.

“It is the second leading cause of death in ages 15 to 24, so we have been watching and seeing a lot of alarm on college campus relating to a rising problem with anxiety, depression, and suicide,” said Dr. Mona McCalley-Whitters.

She says there's still a lot of stigma with mental health, but also kids not being equipped on how to take care of it.

"Emotional first aid. We're not really taught as young children or adults on how to take care of our mental health,” she added.

That's why they stress early intervention and knowing warning signs. They're working with local schools in response to this and other recent incidents.

"There's always alternatives and the end result should never be what we saw the other week," said McGuire.

However, the support Jeff's brothers have seen through the GoFundMe they started to pay for his funeral is heartwarming and shows just how much he was loved.

"We set it $15 thousand, and as we sit here today, we are almost at $30 thousand, which is incredible, not only for us, Jeff’s family, it just shows how much support there is around the community," said McGuire.

If you or a loved one is dealing with depression or thoughts of suicide, call or text the Iowa Helpline at 1-855-800-1239. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.