DISCLAIMER: This opinion piece contains mentions of death and suicide and may be triggering to some readers. Use caution before reading.
As both a member of Active Minds and a psychology student, mental illness and suicide has always intrigued me. Growing up, I had multiple friends that struggled with depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. I began struggling with depression myself shortly after starting college. In that time, the most important lesson I have learned in suicide prevention is not something most people consider.
Many believe depression is caused by one specific reason or that treatment is universal. However, one person’s story is often far different when compared to another’s. Thus, how an individual experiences depression is crucial to understanding how to best help them.
Before going on, I must note that there are undeniable similarities between groups at risk. In general, the mental illness most tied to suicide is depression along with bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and substance abuse disorder. Depression itself is often diagnosed with multiple other mental illnesses, such as anxiety. Additionally, in the U.S.A., suicide is typically gendered; men complete suicide 3.75 times more than women despite women attempting suicide more than men. The most effective treatments tend to involve therapy, medication or both.
That being said, there are a myriad of reasons someone may have suicidal ideation. My own counselor has taught me there are two ways people come to consider suicide: those that see no reason to live and those that feel pain too great to go on. From there, differences from case to case deepen even further.
Regarding how someone can develop depression, there often are multiple factors to consider including genetics, brain chemistry, environment, personal life changes and drug use. For example, while one person may develop depression after the death of a loved one, another may develop depression despite nothing seeming wrong. This contributes to the individual reason someone may turn to suicide, their likelihood to attempt or complete suicide and the most effective remedy to counter such thoughts.
And this is where individuality comes most into play: finding coping skills and treatment that works for you.
First, it is important to know that what you or someone else feels is valid; although it may seem your story is “nothing in comparison to what others have dealt with,” that does not mean you shouldn’t seek help any less. Reaching out is the first and most essential part of finding help.
Secondly, remember to be patient with yourself, know that things will get better and be open to various types of treatment. Now, take it from me, this is much easier said than done. Many people try counseling or medication and find it does not work for them. And that’s okay. Counseling can depend solely on the counselor and it is okay to try finding another that can better connect with you. Medications such as antidepressants can often take weeks to have an effect, if any. There will always be instances where one person’s experience with treatment is vastly different from another’s. It is also helpful to seek activities you enjoy and find meaning in. Other coping skills that have affected millions include meditation, deep breathing, journaling, etc.
Lastly, it is important to know the resources and support available to you (see resources below). Support groups people use most include friends and family. You can also reach out to a CA or trusted professor. For students here at Slippery Rock, the Student Counseling Center is likely the best choice for professional help.
Additionally, some rumors were spread where some students were forced to wait up to three weeks to see anyone; do not believe any myths you hear about unavailability. They are always open to students and typically have openings within a week of scheduling an appointment. If you feel intimidated by seeing a counselor, an organization called BOOST can get students in contact with other students to talk about any issues you may have. Student Success Coaches and the Career Center can answer any questions students have regarding their major, finding a career path, class stressors and management. Students can also rely on clubs and organizations to find new hobbies or make new friends.
The first steps to fight suicidal thoughts tend to fall in the hands of the person suffering. It is up to you specifically to make the steps to find treatment. And what that treatment is depends on yourself, too. To anyone struggling or that knows anyone struggling, my best piece of advice is to urge you to find what personally helps you.
Student Counseling Center:
Boost Peer Coaching:
011 Patterson Hall
Student Success Coaches:
Smith Student Center (The Suite)