The ongoing phenomena that mentally deteriorates a person from the inside out continues to rise in numbers by the year. Suicide, the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year old’s in the U.S., hits close to home by affecting students everywhere.
Suicide is a topic that people often feel uncomfortable speaking about. Ethically, the thought of a person taking their own life may be disturbing but there is someone in the world thinking about attempting the action right now. In fact, there is a great possibility that someone in your classroom at Georgia State may be contemplating suicide.
In today’s world, we become numb to what we see, hear, and in cases like suicide, do. College students are constantly scrolling through Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. It seems every day there is a new controversial tweet from Donald Trump or another Snapchat video of a football tailgate with under-age drinking. But what about that person who continuously posts how upset, lonely and overwhelmed they feel? Do you keep scrolling?
In the egocentric world we live in today, there is not enough time in the day to be worrying about other people’s struggles when we are constantly trying to solve our own. But, if you send a quick text message to check on someone and make sure they are okay, you might end up saving a life.
Know the signs
Identifying the signs of a suicidal person, like the ones listed below, is the first step to leading a student contemplating suicide to aid: (Courtesy of www.opposingviews.com)
- Noticeable mood swings: lower than low one day, cheery and hopeful the next.
- Expressions of wanting to die or be killed; statements such as, “I wish I was never born;” a fixation on violence, dying and death.
- Isolating at home; withdrawing from society; discontinued socializing.
- An increased use of drugs or alcohol.
- Partaking in self-destructive behavior; increased risk-taking (i.e., reckless driving).
- Getting affairs in order; giving belongings away; giving what sounds like a final goodbye to friends, family, or co-workers.
- Talk of feeling hopeless or trapped and not seeing a way out.
- Acquiring items that provide the means to take their own life (i.e., gun, accumulating pills).
- Changes in long time habits, sleeping or eating patterns; change of routine.
- Changes in personality; anxiety or agitation, especially in relation to other signs of suicide.
Why is it so important to recognize the signs? Dr. Jeana Griffith, Associate Director of Psychological and Health Services at Georgia State claims the Georgia State suicide rate is comparable to the national rate of 13.3, with only a 0.5 percent difference. That means the rate of suicide is steadily increasing each year alongside the national average.
With statistics like these, taking matters into our own hands as a community is essential for further prevention. The Psychological and Health Services at Georgia State has worked diligently to create a safe and understanding environment for Panthers in need, while currently recruiting new counseling members.
Counseling is available at all Georgia State campuses. There are 20 counselors on the Atlanta campus and two counselors who rotate among the perimeter college. “Students walk in, fill out some paperwork so we can find out what’s going on with them and they meet with the counselor that same day. Then they decide together what’s the best plan for them,” Griffith explained.
Be aware of your options
While each student is guaranteed 15 free one-on-one counseling sessions per year, students can also participate in an unlimited amount of group sessions. Group sessions are a free, beneficial opportunity to speak with other students who are experiencing the same issues and compare stories.
Some students, however, may need more than 15 sessions, so the Psychological and Health Services will refer them to their client advocate. The client advocate serves as a middleman between the Georgia State services and community counseling options and will find them low-cost counseling in the area. Psychiatry is an option on the Atlanta Campus as well.
The option of medication is another route along with counseling that could improve the student’s overall perception of life. “Students can go to the health clinic for medicine on [all] other campuses,” Griffith said.
The primary goal of the Psychological and Health Services is to recognize the issue and take the matter into guiding hands before students attempt to harm themselves. They are currently preparing for one of the “peak times” of the academic year; midterms. The number of students coming into the office doubles in October and March due to the overwhelming stress to perform exceptionally on midterms.
The staff recognizes this pattern and plans to involve students in stress management, happiness exercises and remind them of the resources available to them at Georgia State. “We are doing lots of pop-up sessions in different areas like in the dorms to try to help students to create a life worth living,” Griffith said.
Along with serving students in emotional distress due to suicidal thoughts, the staff also aids students who have lost someone to suicide. The staff makes it a point to prove they are there for students by showing up in classrooms for emergency debriefing and emotional support if someone has just passed.
Be cautious, stand up, and speak out
Don’t be a bystander. If you notice someone struggling and continuously posting or speaking about taking their own life, ask them to speak to you, or a professional, about it. Some students may use humor or “make fun of themselves” to defuse the severity of their problem to appear fine. Keep the signs of emotional distress in mind and be cautious of the extremity of suicide. Defense mechanisms may work temporarily, but suicide is irreversible.
Georgia State continues to mourn over those we have lost to suicide. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, do not keep it to yourself. Speak about your intrusive thoughts to a friend, a parent or a counselor.
Who to call
The crisis hotline for Georgia State is available to students 24/7. The number is 404-413-1640. This is an option at all times of the day to speak with a counselor. The National Suicide prevention hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and is also available 24/7.