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Depression and suicide plague campuses across nation

by Hazen Center for Integrated Care
Tue, Apr 3rd 2018 10:00 pm

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals aged 18-24. Due to this fact, suicide and mental health are major topics of importance for college-aged students. To help not only ourselves but also the people around us, it is necessary to know the risk factors and signs, and how to help if you believe someone is at risk for suicide.  

Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the likelihood of something occurring. It is important to know the risk factors for suicide and to take them seriously. A key risk factor is having an existing mental health condition (such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse), or serious/chronic health conditions. 

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), 90 percent of individuals who die by suicide have a mental health condition. Along with that, one in three who die by suicide are found to be under the influence. Mental health conditions and alcohol and drugs are very present on a college campus. There are also a variety of environmental risk factors such as access to firearms or drugs and prolonged stress or a stressful life event. 

A prolonged stress in someone’s life could be bullying or relationship problems. Stressful events can be things such as losing a job or perceived failures. An individual’s personal history can be a risk factor for suicide as well, Such as a family history of suicide, past suicide attempts or childhood neglect or trauma. This is not a full list, as there are many other risk factors. The risk factors discussed can all relate to our lives as college students. We are often facing very stressful situations and are exposed to drugs and alcohol. 

Facing a mental illness is also very common for college-aged students. Just because someone has one or more of the following risk factors for suicide does not automatically mean they are going to attempt it. On the other hand, someone could have none of these risk factors and still attempt suicide. Suicide is very complex and may not be a single cause, but a variety of different causes.

Individuals who die by suicide often show warning signs; therefore, knowing some warning signs and being able to talk about them can be lifesaving. One warning sign is when someone says something about wanting to die, feeling hopeless or believing they have no reason to live. These things that seem pretty clear can often be overlooked in our society. On the other hand, social withdrawal is also a warning sign. A friend may be more distant and isolating themselves from friends and activities. Other behaviors that are warning signs are aggression, impulsiveness, giving away possessions, increased alcohol and drug usage, mood swings, and saying goodbye to friends and family. Just like risk factors, this is not an exhaustive list. If you have a feeling that someone is thinking about suicide, it is important to get him or her the help they need.

So what exactly is the help that an individual may need, and how do you get them that help? There is a five step action plan to help someone who you think may be suicidal. 

The first step is to ask. Ask the individual if they are thinking about suicide. By you bringing it up, it shows that you are open to talking about it and you are there to be supportive. With this you must also listen to the words the individual says. You must also focus on their own reasons for wanting to live, not your reasons for wanting them to live. Do not promise to keep their thoughts a secret, and assure them that you want to help them through this. 

The second of the five step plan is to keep them safe. This involves getting more details if it has been established that suicide has been on their mind. Do they have a detailed plan? If so, what kind of access do they have to their planned method? 

The answers to this can give us a picture of how serious the individual is about carrying out their plan. If they have several, detailed steps or if they have easy access to their method, for example, firearms, then they are very serious and extra steps (taking them to counseling center or taking them to emergency services) could be necessary. 

The third step is to be there for the person. This can be in any way you feel is necessary. It can mean you are physically there, or even just texting them or asking them to meet up for coffee in between classes. When someone knows that someone else cares about them, it can have a huge impact. It increases their feelings of connectedness and also decreases their isolation. 

The fourth step is to help them connect. We have many great people here at Brockport that can help, specifically the counselors in Hazen. There are people on campus you can delegate the situation to if you do not feel you can handle it such as RA’s, professors or counselors. There is also the suicide prevention lifeline (1-800-273-8255), as well as a text option. You can text (741741) to be connected with a crisis counselor. Finally, the last step is to follow up. 

After you have been there for them and connected them to proper resources, check in with them to see how they are doing. Just like the third step (be there), this allows the individual to feel connected and cared for.  

Knowing the risk factors, warning signs, and how to help someone who could be thinking about suicide could possibly save a life. Creating this conversation with someone can help us fight the stigma against suicide. 

If you are interested in helping the cause but do not know where to start, Brockport is having the Out of the Darkness Campus walk on Saturday, April 14. This is a great day to educate yourself, remember a loved one, connect with sources, and also to raise support for the cause.



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