College suicide: Help is out there

Carlena Bressanelli, Contributing writer

“One conversation can change a life,” is the National Alliance of Mental Illness’ slogan for Suicide Prevention Month.
“Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone regardless of age, gender or background (and it) is the third leading cause of death among young people and is often the result of mental health conditions that affect people when they are most vulnerable,” according to the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
September is Suicide Prevention month. Schools and universities are promoting activities and other opportunities to help educate people about suicide.
Mercyhurst’s Counseling Center has a number of licensed and experienced staff who work well with students who may be at risk for suicide. Aside from the counseling staff, they train the RAs and countless faculty members on how to protect students. These skills include, but are not limited to, knowing the signs of depression and suicidal thoughts and who to contact should an emergency arise and how to stay with the student until help arrives.
The Counseling Center also has random depression screenings about twice a year. No one is forced to take it, but they do approach students in the cafeteria. It usually takes five minutes to complete a screening, which is then read by a counselor in a separate location.
At the end of these screenings, the counselor scores it and will share the results with the student. From there, depending if the score was too high, the staff offers appointments and some material on depression that is always available at the counseling center.
The staff will follow up by phone to any student who scored high or who was not in the “normal range.” The staff looks at times of the season where students might be most susceptible.
Mercyhurst has an on-call system, so there is always a counselor on campus evenings and weekends, except during holidays. Each counselor at the Counseling Center is on-call about one week out of each month and will be available during the evening hours and weekends if residence life or police and safety call them.
They will talk to the student or faculty member by phone, go to campus, or even to the hospital if necessary. They will discuss any issues like harming themselves or others, a loss of a family member, a case of sexual assault, dating violence and other crisis situations.
No one really wants to talk about the dark thoughts they sometimes have because they may feel embarrassed. No matter what the thoughts are about, you should not feel alone.
“Most students that are thinking of suicide are not thinking of it because death is what they crave; most see it as the way to escape the pain they are living in. That pain has become overwhelming; it colors and shadows their day, and makes it harder and harder to see the whole picture,” Judy Smith, Ph.D., licensed psychologist and director of the Counseling Center, said.
It is important to recognize emotions. Emotions are personal, and not to be dictated by a third party. When experiencing a negative emotion such as sadness, it is important to reach out.
Smith said that depression can cause lack of pleasure for regular life, appetite, sleep, motivation and concentration, even doing small things might seem like a hassle.
Suicide can be present when you feel hopelessness, internal pain, giving up or thoughts of death. Even stress is intertwined with tons of self criticism and whatever is happening in the person’s life. This topic is important year-round, but Suicide Prevention Month and World Suicide Prevention Day remind everyone to pay attention to their mental health.