SENATE MATTERS: Trigger warning — Suicide


Like many in the Pitt community, my family has felt the devastating effects of depression and suicide. That’s part of why I am so grateful that even as you read this, a dedicated committee of our Pitt colleagues are putting together a year-long series of events to mark academic year 2022-23 as the Year of Emotional Well-Being. Like previous “Year of…” initiatives, the Year of Emotional Well-Being will support events and projects meant to highlight the theme and its applications to the Pitt community.


  • Pitt faculty and staff can contact Life Solutions for no-cost support for mental health and other wellness concerns at 1-866-647-3432, including issues ranging from healthy eating tips to work/life balance to 24/7 emergency crisis support.

  • Pitt students have access to wellness workshops, group counselling, one-on-one counselling and more at the University Counseling Center, at 412-648-7930, which also provides 24/7 crisis response.

  • Support for emergent mental health concerns is available to all members of our community at resolve Crisis Services, at 1-888-796-8226.

This is a massive, community-wide undertaking, and we can look forward to the unveiling of the “Year of Emotional Well-Being” website that will give us more details about the programs for this year. Look for updated information at

In the meantime, though, we are fortunate to be the beneficiaries of the hard work of the Mental Wellness Task Force. A unit of the University Senate’s Benefits and Welfare committee, the task force was created in 2014 to help facilitate access to quality mental health resources for Pitt staff and faculty. Since that time, the task force has worked closely with Pitt Life Solutions on a variety of initiatives, including a flyer  — now included in new faculty orientation materials — that centers the unique stressors of faculty life.

When Provost Patty Beeson declared 2017 the Year of Healthy U, the Mental Wellness Task Force applied for and received a grant to host a year-long Mental Wellness Book Club that provided free copies of books to registrants. The book club was met with such success that participants pushed for a more permanent club. In response, Pitt’s benefits department has continued to fund the Mental Wellness Book Club. And although the pandemic greatly diminished the scope of the book club, the Task Force plans to resume in-person book club meetings — about one or two per semester — this academic year.

This year, the task force will host a monthly in-person support group for those who have family members or close friends dealing with the many challenges of functioning with mental illness. The Family and Friends Support Group meets the second Monday of every month from noon to 1 p.m. Details for the Oct. 10 meeting are available here.

The Mental Wellness Task Force exists because of the tireless efforts of its founder and chair, Linda Tashbook. The foreign, international, comparative law librarian at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Tashbook is the author of “Family Guide to Mental Illness and the Law: A Practical Handbook” from Oxford University Press. She also serves as the chair of the University Senate’s Benefits and Welfare committee. The task force also includes members Christina Newhill, Melanie Reyes, Angelina Riccelli, Cheryl Paul, Bill Ankrom, Jessica Thomas, Lola Suvak, Tom Koloc, Nancy McKee, and Melissa Kluchurosky.

If you would like more information about the task force and its activities, or if you want to send Linda a quick note of thanks for her years of dedication on this important issue, you can email her at

It is hard to imagine something “good” coming from this terrible global pandemic that has upended our lives for the past several years. But if one were to look hard for a “silvery lining,” it would be the way the pandemic has put into sharp relief how much we in the Pitt community rely on each other for support and strength when times get tough. The Year of Emotional Well-Being and the ongoing work of the Mental Health Task Force provide us with an opportunity to celebrate and strengthen those connections.

    Kris Kanthak is vice president of the University Senate and an associate professor of political science.