All Alone

Increasing rates of mental health issues and suicides among college students need to be properly addressed and supported, both by students and administrators. 

With suicide accounting for 20 percent of deaths for people between 15 and 24 and ranking as the 10th leading cause of death for all ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide-prevention discussion among college students has been long overdue. It is time for college administrators and students alike to discuss the terrifying ubiquity of suicide and work to make tangible, positive changes to these statistics.

While most college campuses have services for mental health, such as UCSD’s Counseling and Psychological Services, many students feel guilty about using these services, don’t know how to access these services or are even punished for seeking help. A Newsweek article reported that a UC Santa Barbara student who had been suffering from anxiety cut herself in the shower, and the resident advisor was subsequently notified. The student was reprimanded for allegedly violating the housing contract by putting other residents in “danger.” The stress and anxiety that college brings is overwhelming, and no student — or anyone, for that matter — should be punished for this. Instead, after the RA had been notified, the student should have been informed of resources on campus that could have helped her during this arduous time in her life.

Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in Isla Vista in May 2014 and ended up committing suicide, clearly exhibited signs of mental disturbances. In the aftermath of his horrific attack on other students, many suggested that the tragedy could have been prevented if more attention had been given to his symptoms by police, the school administration and his fellow students. In order to prevent incidents like this from happening, Rodger’s father has established a website, AskForHelp.org, so that people can have access to resources about mental health.

Services like CAPS should be a little more transparent with stressing the importance of taking care of ourselves mentally. During the midterm season, which is basically all the time at UCSD, one of the biology professors at UCSD reminded her students during lecture to make an appointment with CAPS if life felt overwhelming. Even if most students don’t feel this way, it’s nice to know that there is an option to get help. And that’s how mental health should be addressed to students: You can get better, and there are options.

However, not only is it the administration’s job to make sure students have access to mental health services but it is also the duty of students to be aware of some red-flag behaviors of their peers and not to casually brush these symptoms aside. While students don’t need to painstakingly search for these symptoms in their friends and classmates, it is important to be aware of them and to take action if they do become an issue. On Feb. 26, NBC News reported that Facebook will be including a feature to prevent suicide. This feature will allow users to flag a friend’s post if the user thinks the post contains suicidal thoughts. Facebook will then alert the user that “a friend thinks [they] might be going through something difficult.” They then have the option to talk to someone or to get tips and support from places, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It can be difficult to directly confront a friend, so this feature is helpful in allowing friends to anonymously look out for each other and address this issue.

At a certain point, there’s only so much that can be done to prevent suicide, but there is hope if we persist in preventing suicide and taking the opportunity to tell people that they matter. At the 87th Academy Awards, adapted-screenplay winner for “The Imitation Game” Graham Moore did just that in his acceptance speech. He took the opportunity to talk about his attempted suicide as a teenager and encouraged others who feel “weird” and “different” to stay that way: “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage, please pass the same message along.”

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