Suicide Prevention 1

Pictured is "Five Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain", according to the National Institute of Mental Health

Editor's note: The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

As National Suicide Awareness and Prevention month comes to an end, it’s important that everyone continues to acknowledge suicide, and the mental illnesses often associated with it, even after the month is over.

It’s especially important that colleges and universities remain informed and provide services and resources that allow their students to reach out, throughout the school year.

The stresses of college can further impact the mental stability of students and lead to failing, worsening mental illnesses, and in the worst case, suicide.

According to The Jed Foundation, the average age that depression and anxiety appear is college-aged students, 18 to 24 years old. Knowing this, it comes with little shock that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.

The pressure of classes, extracurricular activities, jobs, internships and looming financial instabilities are all contributing factors to the stress that college students take on for nine months out of the year. Summer courses and internships make this a year-round concern.

Unfortunately, it’s far too easy for the signs of depression and anxiety to go unnoticed no matter the circumstances.

Students, parents and administrators should make it a priority to familiarize themselves with the symptoms and effects.

Some possible symptoms of depression in college students, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, include feelings of worthlessness, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed, irritability and insomnia.

The symptoms for anxiety are slightly different, including difficulty concentrating, hyper vigilance, having a sense of impending danger and restlessness. 

Since so many of these symptoms are overlooked by others, students may never know that they are suffering from a mental health issue or even feel as though they cannot tell anyone about what they’re going through.

A study conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness showed that one in four college students have a diagnosable mental illness and 40% do not seek help about their illness or worsening mental stability.

For this reason, some colleges, like Boston University, have implemented screening events. These screening events allow students, faculty and staff to receive professional, free screenings for anxiety and depression.

These screenings could mean the difference between a student getting the diagnosis and help that they need and a student continuing to struggle with an undiagnosed and untreated mental illness.

Longwood University also brought awareness to the issue, when organizations teamed up and arranged a suicide prevention booth, which allowed students to gain information and learn more about the statistics surrounding suicide.

Longwood also provides counseling services for those who may be suffering from any mental health issue, in the form of Longwood Counseling and Psychological Services.

These helpful sources brought forth by colleges and universities are necessary across all campuses nationwide, for many reasons.

As much as we’d all like to believe that things like this can’t be happening in plain sight, it is simply naive to let an issue as prevalent as mental health slip through our fingers and create life-altering consequences.

It is up to everyone, college boards and administrators, parents, friends, professors and students alike, to not let the conversation around suicide die with the autumn leaves of September.

We must all keep the conversation going past September, past Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

We must keep the conversation alive to keep each other alive.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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