In accordance with the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, September is Suicide Prevention Month—a time to circulate mental health resources and engage in discourse regarding suicide in order to help those struggling understand that they are not alone.
Suicide is extremely deadly amongst college populations. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, “suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-34,” yet there is a significant stigma against mental health in America.
“[The] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM)…gave the impression that mental health was based on controllable behaviors [when it was published in 1952],” said Linda Faust, a licensed master social worker in the Wilcox Center for Counseling and Wellness. “Mental health has been viewed as more personal or negative than a physical illness would be.”
Stigmatization of mental disorders has had numerous consequences.
“[Stigmas have lead to a] reluctance of seeking treatment, bullying or intimidation of others [and] difficulty getting health insurance to cover treatment,” said Faust.
Unsurprisingly, many individuals experiencing suicidal ideation do not reach out for help. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, only 46% of suicide victims have been diagnosed with a mental disorder while 90% of suicide victims experienced symptoms of mental disorders. It is therefore important to be aware of how suicidal ideation comes about, and how we can best support ourselves and those around us.
In addition to common risk factors, such as chronic pain or a family history of mental disorders/substance abuse/suicide attempts, college students face additional stressors.
“In college age populations, that being 18-22, there is quite a bit of transition going on,” said Maggie Magoon, a lecturer in the psychology department. “Changes can be [positive] or negative and can cause stress. There is also sometimes a cultural shock, coming to campus and being away from friends, family and ‘normal’ structure.”
Some college-specific stressors facing students include heightened independence, alienation from peers and increased access to illegal substances. There are also many traumatizing and dangerous experiences that may or may not take place in college.
Knowing these things, action can be taken in order to nurture positive mental health practices. Internally, suicidal ideation and tendency can occur as the result of many different forces.
“Since mental illness can manifest itself in many different ways, I think it is important to pinpoint your struggles and be honest with yourself,” said Asia Patterson (’21).
According to the Suicide Prevention Center, up to 87% of suicides are impulsive (unplanned) attempts.
“Even right now is hard, understand that it won’t be that way forever,” said Patterson. “Emotions are temporary.”
It can also help to foster positivity. “If there is something negative happening, it is okay. We have negativity in our lives,” said Magoon. “The problem occurs when you begin to ruminate or obsess about that negativity. A positive viewpoint in life can help in so many ways.”
Lastly, understand that productive mental, physical, and social practices are key in managing stress and combating suicidal ideation.
“It sounds very simplistic, but the top three recommendations for being mentally healthy are sleep well, eat well, and exercise,” said Magoon. “Additionally, social contact is a protective factor against suicidal ideation.”
Remember to be kind to yourself, and find someone you trust to confide in.
“Whenever I find myself [struggling with something], there is a lot of realizing that… I can’t always change it but I can learn and grow from it,” said Ryan Calhoun (’24).
As human beings, we often underestimate the impact our lives have on those around us. All human lives have intrinsic value and those struggling with mental illnesses are no different.
Our Student Chapter of Active Minds is a club focusing on Mental Health Education, Awareness and Suicide Prevention. September 21 at 7 pm via Zoom, Active Minds will feature John Tessitore of the JCK Foundation, who will discuss his mental health journey.
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal ideation, know that there are resources for you. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text HELLO to 741741. The Counseling Center is open Monday – Friday 8:30 – 5 pm, closed from noon – 1pm for lunch.
They offer free sessions, up to 14 an academic year and it is completely confidential. With having three full-time counselors, students can typically get am appointment within the week. If it is a more urgent matter, there are 2 crisis hour appointments offered per day. Simply email Wellness@Alma.edu or call 989-463-7225.