A new threat: Suicide tops car accidents as leading cause of injury-related death in country

Published by adviser, Author: Courtney Tietje, Date: October 4, 2012
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Someone dies by suicide every 15 minutes, according to the SRU Counseling Center website. On September 27, CNN featured an article that stated that suicides have now exceeded car crashes as the leading cause of injury-related death.

Suicide rates are particularly high for college students for two main reasons. According to Dr. Carol Holland, a psychologist in the student counseling center, one of the factors is the amount of stressors impacting today’s world.

“We are doing so much more than we ever had to do,” Holland said. “When I think about when I was growing up and the things that I have to do today that I didn’t have to do back then, it’s unbelievable. Simple things. I think about the simplest things. I think about how I never had to bag my own groceries, [because] we had bag boys. I never had to pump my own gas. I now have to scan my own groceries. I can develop my own pictures now. I don’t even have to go to a bank. I can do my own banking. And those are all great things for convenience, but those are all more things that I have to do through my day.”
Holland elaborated that when the stressors add up between the “simple” and not-so-simple ones, life can become difficult to manage.

“Imagine if somebody has a lot of things going on with them – there’s been a death in the family, a change in their economic status, they’ve lost their job, they’re in the middle of a divorce,” she said. “They’re failing a course, pressure from parents to perform, those kinds of things. All these things just add more and more and more [stress].”

The second large contributing factor, according to Dr. Jason Braun, who is also a counselor in the student counseling center, is revealed in recent studies on resiliency.

“There’s a lot of research now that’s exploring the idea of maybe resiliency [being a factor] and that there seems to be a lack of those kind of resiliency and coping skills in folks that are right around this college age group, and there are a lot of different theories about why that might be,” Braun said.

According to Holland, suicide prevention begins with education. The counseling center works together with the student health center and other on-campus programs to bring awareness and education on recognizing the signs of suicide, recognizing thoughts of suicide in yourself or a friend, and taking the necessary steps to get help.

“I think educating ourselves about what is suicide, what is depression, what is anxiety is very important,” Holland said. “To recognize the signs and symptoms… to be able to observe this behavior in other folks, to be able to identify them and get them help.”
The signs of suicide may be few or numerous, and according to Braun, can include statements directed around suicide or death, steps towards suicide (making plans, handing out their possessions, attempting to gain access to a means of suicide, etc.), written statements referring to suicide, and more. A fuller list of the signs and symptoms of suicide can be found on the SRU Counseling Center website.

When a student recognizes these signs in themselves or another person, they are encouraged to take action. Dr. Braun stated that it is often helpful to be direct with the person.

“Saying, ‘I’m worried about you, and I wonder if maybe you’re thinking about killing yourself.’ Just being that direct and asking oftentimes will be experienced as a very relieving thing for that student because it’s validating them that somebody is seeing that they are in so much pain, and by opening that dialogue up you are giving them [the opportunity] to talk about something that’s they’ve been maybe carrying around for a long time,” he said.

Dr. Braun and Dr. Holland both emphasized the importance of finding the student help, whether through the counseling center, health services, a hotline, or an outside organization.

“[A student contemplating suicide may feel] they don’t have any other options, and so to not be here anymore becomes an option that allows them to feel like they would have hope of not feeling this kind of pain,” Braun said. “If you can connect with a student that’s feeling that way and help them recognize that it’s not really about them wanting to die, it’s about not wanting to feel the way they’re feeling anymore, and then helping them see that they do have other options that maybe they didn’t realize they had before.”

But again, awareness, education, and intervention seem to be crucial.

“The more people that are aware of what to look for and are aware of their options, the better chance we have of preventing [suicide],” Braun said.

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