The end of the rainbow: Georgia State student found the courage to keep living after suicide attempt

Two years after his suicide attempt, Senior Ben Aubrey lives with a new found hope. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal
Two years after his suicide attempt, senior Ben Aubrey lives with a new found hope.
Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

Ben Aubrey, 24 year old senior theatre major at Georgia State, is a brother, friend, gamer and actor. But in 2013, Aubrey tried to take his life due to the stress and anxiety of attending college.

“I willingly held myself down to the point of inhaling water,” he said. “I wanted to experience pain, because I felt like it was what I deserved.”

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and the second leading cause of death among people aged 15-24, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Aubrey said he was once quick tempered and felt like he was “a horrible human being,” because his friends feared his anger. When speaking about his suicide attempt, he looked down, reflecting the pain and impulsiveness of his misplaced willpower.

“I was at home, and filled up my bathtub after a shower,” he said. “I have no idea how long I held myself down. I think I was even yelling because the pain was so bad.”

Multiple attempts

People considering suicide show signs of depression, rage, or anxiety, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

Six suicide threats have been reported to Georgia State University Police Department (GSUPD) in 2015, and the most recent attempt happened near Ellis Street on Oct. 31, according to the police report. Two reported incidents in August involved non-Georgia State individuals.

Chief Carlton Mullis of the GSUPD said each case is individual and personal.

He said the procedure for suicidal reports are dependent on the level of threat to the person. GSUPD can refer the person to the Counseling and Testing Center (CTC), Dean of Students, Grady Hospital or Ridgeview Institute. He also said the patterns of suicide reports are around exam time.

“We usually get calls during finals, when stress starts piling on people,” he said.

Mullis also said suicide reports aren’t reported to the Department of Education like other crimes, because suicide isn’t considered one. He also said the Department of Education doesn’t request those reports either.

“The Department of Education has a list of crimes they want reported, and suicide isn’t one of them,” Mullis said.

Lieutenant Brian Lawton of GSUPD Criminal Investigations agreed with Mullis and said reporting this kind of information may discourage people from reporting incidents.

“Seeing names in the paper may trigger some other emotions, and may defeat the purpose [of reporting incidents],” he said.

One incident was reported on Sept. 30 as a suicide threat, but was later amended by GSUPD to transport because the student was taken to Ridgeview Institute for further assistance.

Mullis said reports can change from their original report.

“It may be reported as a suicide threat, but when it’s investigated, it may not be the case at all,” he said.

According to the Sept. 30 police report, the student threatened suicide near the Andrew Young School. The CTC received the student and later transported the student to Ridgeview Institute. However, no further information can be given by witnesses without a disclosure agreement from the student.

Not alone

Aubrey said he had a hard time fitting in on campus, but he had two friends from his Freshman Learning Community (FLC). He said he had a period of “real darkness” at that time, dealing with depression and anxiety since high school, and struggling to find his own identity.

“It was hard to see where I was going,” Aubrey said. “I felt like I was never going to amount to anything.”

Jeana Griffith, associate psychologist of the Georgia State Counseling and Testing Center (CTC), said evidence of a person contemplating suicide includes talking about self-harm, anxious tendencies, an inability to cope with stress and withdrawal from society. Griffith also said the CTC has had to refer several students to Ridgeview in 2015.

“People thinking about committing suicide think it’s the only option,” she said. “They may feel overwhelmed by the stress in their lives.”

During finals, Aubrey said his fear of being alone made studying hard without his friends, and he often studied late into the night. He felt like his problems were “general”, which added to his depression.

“I spent as much time with my friends as I could, because when I was alone, the depression consumed me,” he said.

Griffith said according to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, unmarried college age white males are among the most common to attempt and successfully commit suicide. She suggested positive self talk and talking to people in his or her support system.

“They can talk to a clergy member, a friend or a counselor, and let that person know they’re having a hard time,” she said. “Some people don’t always have those support systems.”  

Dark days

Aubrey tried the CTC once near the middle of his freshman semester. He said the therapist was helpful, but he couldn’t commit to going regularly due to the lateness of the year. He remembers talking to the counselor about his high school friends, whom he missed.

“I brought up how much I missed my friends, because we split up before college, and I didn’t have any consistent friends after that,” he said.

Aubrey said he suffers from anxiety attacks, which entail his body shaking, numbness and nighttime hallucinations due to the stress near finals. He kept his ailments from his family, because he can’t afford therapy.

“We’re not like the most well-off financially,” he said. “I didn’t want to have my family have to get therapy just for me.”

There are over 1 million suicide attempts in the United States every year; one attempt every 31 seconds, according to the 2013 fact sheet for the American Association for Suicidology.

Living Again

Aubrey said after his suicide attempt, he was able to cough up the water in his lungs and needed no medical attention.

He said after he tried to commit suicide, he decided to continue living. He found his true calling in theatre and returned to school.

“[After the suicide attempt] I realized, ‘I can’t do this again,’” he said. “I had a flicker of hope that kept me going.”

Aubrey said hope of knowing his life would get better was what kept him from ever thinking about suicide again. And after a brief silence, he said his past decision was selfish.

“I knew that life was going to get better for me,” he said. “I knew that ending my life wasn’t the answer. To do something that drastic and permanent was selfish.”

Griffith said a student contemplating suicide should know there is someone who cares, so they feel empowered and less trapped.

“We can refer them to organizations, tutors for school or help them make a plan to feel more empowered. Other times, they should get out and do something fun,” she said.

Aubrey said he used suicide websites to help him lessen his depression. He said he can’t find the ones he used, but hasn’t thought about suicide in over a year, and found his friends’ and his sister’s support to be invaluable.

“My sister has my back,” he said. “My friends told me to focus on myself and not worry about anything else.”

Aubrey said he still has a hectic life, but now reflects on his attempt with a calm state of mind. He said taking one’s life adds more problems than it solves.

“No matter how dark everything seems, your life matters to someone,” he said. “[Taking your life] causes problems to everyone around you.”

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