Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-44 according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. September is National Suicide Prevention Month.
Suicide is now a national health crisis according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Suicide rates have increased in every state except Nevada from 1999 to 2016 as reported by the CDC. The study indicated that the rate of increase in suicides during that 17-year period have been as high as 58 percent in 12 states, and in every other state excluding Nevada the rate of increase is between 6 and 37 percent. Nearly 45,000 citizens age 10 and older took their own lives in 2016.
According to Susie Sympson, adjunct professor, Psychology, the best thing a person can do if they are experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts is to talk to someone — anyone.
“People need to talk,” Sympson said. “Victims need to talk about their experiences. Family members who’ve lost someone need to talk about it.”
Katelyn Brule agrees. She is a member of the Active Mind club, a mental illness support and mental health advocacy group at the college. Talking to people, she said, is the best way to get help.
“Talk to a friend,” Brule said. “Talk to a counsellor. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to counsellor, find a friend, try the suicide hotline or your parents. Even professors or teachers: anyone close to you [will work].”
Bullying and LGBTQ students
Bullying can cause serious problems for LGBTQ people, said Dannie Licari, student and member of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA).
“[Bullying] can cause generic depression, anxiety and dissociating, to the extremes of suicide or hospitalization, to even being outcast by family to the point of being homeless,” Licari said.
Just this August, Jamel Myles, a nine-year-old fourth grader in Colorado, recently killed himself after coming out as gay and was bullied at school.
“There is something fundamentally wrong happening when a young person’s situation is so bad that they feel like they want to die,” Sympson said.
Contrary to popular belief, LGBTQ students are not actually more prone to mental illness than others. However, LGBTQ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth and are almost five times more likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth, according to a 2016 study from the CDC. So, why is a group of people not inherently more inclined to face mental illness so much more likely to be suicidal? Sympson has an answer.
“[LGBTQ students] can be targeted,” Sympson said. “People will try and say LGBTQ people are sick, but there is no difference between the mental health numbers of straight or gay people. That is just a misnomer. They are often ridiculed, and it’s society that makes that the norm. Bullying is a huge, huge, contributor to suicide. Sometimes it’s like putting a target on a kids’ back and asking why they are having problems.”
Sympson mentioned the most important thing to remember is that there is always help.
“If we open up and talk about [our problems], we can do something,” Sympson said. “I founded Active Minds here [at the college.] I saw so many students in dire need to have that outlet; that it’s okay to talk about, it’s okay to ask for help.”
Gender and Sexuality Alliance
The GSA is a safe place for LGBTQ students, and anyone else that would like to attend, to meet on campus to make friends and discuss news. PJ Van Nieuwenhuyse, student and member of the GSA, spoke of the club’s importance.
“The GSA is a safe space for everyone to hang out and get to know each other,” Van Nieuwenhuyse said. “Sometimes it can be hard to make other queer friends. The GSA is a place to talk about news and have fun together, it is just like a cute little friend group.”
It is important to be respectful of one another to foster a positive college environment for everyone, emphasized Van Nieuwenhuyse.
“I can’t emphasize [being respectful] enough,” Van Nieuwenhuyse said. “Just asking about pronouns if you are not sure — if you meet someone and you are not sure what their pronouns are, if you’re just kind of getting vibes that someone is trans or something, always ask. No one I know gets offended by being asked. It’s a respect thing.”
Dannie Licari agreed that basic respect is how students can better support LGBTQ students on campus.
“Respect pronouns,” Licari said. “Respect sexuality, just be respectful, just be nice, and always ask [about pronouns]. Don’t assume.”
For students struggling with mental health, Active Minds can be another support to students. The club was started in 2010 with the intent of giving students a place to speak freely about what is on their minds. Denise Dixon, a student club member, described why Active Minds is important to her.
“It is important to me because it is a support and advocacy group for mental health and people that struggle with mental illnesses,” Dixon said. “I struggle with epilepsy and autism and I think it’s important to have a support group.”
Brule pointed out that it is important to be a member of Active Minds not only to have a support group for yourself, but to help other students that are struggling.
“I believe that even if someone doesn’t have any mental illness or any mental health problems, we all have mental health,” Brule said. “We all need to help each other and support each other and help people [understand] they don’t have an issue.”
- If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-8255.
- If you or someone you know is an LGBTQ student feeling suicidal or need help or counselling, go here.
- For counselors looking for resources on LGBTQ students, go here.
- Reporting on suicide can lead to others acting on their suicidal thoughts, for tips on safely reporting about suicide, go here.
- If you or someone you know needs help in Johnson County, the number for the Johnson County Mental Health Center is 913-831-2550.
- For LGBTQ students, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance is a safe place for students to go be among peers and the Active Minds club is a great resource to help students navigate life and safely deal with mental health issues. Active Minds meets Wednesdays at 12:00 p.m. in CC 232 and the GSA meets Wednesdays at 3:30 p.m. in CC 212.
- Finally, the college has many resources to help students through the counselling department.