Students are under incredible pressure – finding a job, dealing with relationships and making the most of their four years on the 40 Acres. But when these pressures turn into something destructive and thoughts of suicide and self-harm begin to seem reasonable compared to what’s ahead, it’s time to seek help.
As much as college is about exploring yourself, having fun and becoming a productive and successful human being, there are aspects of college life that no one wants to talk about - loneliness, boredom and fear. This University is daunting, and students coming straight from high school can slip through the cracks more easily than any of us want to admit. It’s our responsibility as members of the university community to lift those people up, and this week is the perfect time to start.
This week is Suicide Prevention Awareness Week at the University of Texas. Spearheaded by the Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) in partnership with Student Government, the Tejas Club and Texas Parents, the week is full of events aimed at helping all members of the University of Texas understand that they are not alone. As both a member of the student advisory board for the CMHC and the Tejas Club, I believe suicide prevention efforts should always be supported and expanded at the University of Texas.
According to the Daily Beast, as of 2010, among those aged 15-49, suicide was the leading cause of death, surpassing heart disease, AIDS and cancer. Among that group, more people are dying by suicide than the year before. The jump in suicide rates is seen by some as generational. Others see suicide as preventable, and predict that rates will drop with less access to guns or a better economic climate. The reality is that suicide is a public health issue, but one that has been consistently misunderstood.
For college students, suicide is part of our everyday life. According to the CMHC, 18 percent of undergraduate students and 15 percent of graduate students have seriously considered suicide as an option. Of those, 8 percent of undergraduates and 5 percent of graduate students have acted on that consideration. This means that most students on this campus are close with someone who has thought about self-harm, whether they know or not. The excuse that suicide does not affect you does not hold up to the truth.
Events all week include workshops to help students, faculty and staff recognize peers who might be thinking about suicide. Many people do not have significant outward expressions to let others know they are thinking about suicide, which is why it is important to receive professional training to recognize those that are in need.
Organizations around the globe have made progress in eliminating the stigma associated with suicide and mental health in general. But every time “kill yourself” is thrown around as an insult or threats of suicide are treated in the same vein as casual complaints, we take two steps back.
It’s easy to walk past the flyers and look past suicide prevention week as just another University campaign. But it’s not nearly as easy to get educated or to treat suicide and mental health with the same severity as other diseases with large mortality rates.
It’s high time that suicide was treated as more than a generational tic, and mental health as more than something to be overcome. Suicide is not the last resort of the weak, or the product of bad genes or a way of seeking attention. For every student on the 40 Acres, suicide should always be a serious concern and help should be offered readily. We cannot afford to keep waiting until it’s too late.