Young adult suicide numbers concerning
By PAT ROSS
Columbiana County MHRS Board
Suicide numbers are staggering. In a report in Addiction Treatment Magazine, the Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC), states that more than 33,000 people commit suicide every year in the United States.
Put in the context of time, this means that one suicide occurs every 16 minutes. It is the third leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24, (behind motor vehicle accidents and homicides), and the second leading cause of death for college students. In addition to completed suicides, an estimated 832,500 people attempt suicide each year.
According to a 2008 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA, www.samhsa.gov), young adults age 18 to 25 were more likely than adults age 26 to 49 to have had serious thoughts of suicide (6.7 percent vs. 3.9 percent).
“Suicide is a preventable tragedy for college students, their families, and our communities,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., noting the importance of education about depression, substance abuse, and other suicide risk factors, as well as resources such as SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “By working on suicide prevention on campuses and elsewhere, we can save thousands of lives.”
The American College Health Association’s Spring 2012 National College Health Assessment found that 86 percent of the college and university students surveyed reported that they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do. Thirty-one percent confessed that they had felt so depressed it was difficult to function; 23 percent suffered a depressive or anxiety disorder.
College students need support from their families and peers. The state of the economy is adding to students’ stress about debt and job prospects once they graduate.
A 2010 Higher Education Research Institute study of more than 200,000 freshmen entering 4-year colleges found that their emotional health had declined to the lowest level since the annual survey began 25 years ago.
One way to deal with these overwhelming statistics is to raise public awareness that suicide is a serious and preventable public health problem.
The Campus Suicide Prevention Grants program is one way SAMHSA is working to achieve that goal. The program supports colleges and universities in their efforts to prevent suicide among students and to enhance services for students with depression, substance abuse, and other behavioral health problems that put them at risk of suicide.
In March, 2012 the Columbiana County MHRS Board, in conjunction with the Mahoning and Trumbull County Boards, was awarded a Campus Safety and Mental Health grant to prevent suicide, to reduce stigma related to seeking help for mental health problems, and to ensure faculty, staff and students are aware of mental health resources available to students.
Kent State Salem and East Liverpool Campuses are benefiting from this grant. Using the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Board’s mantra, Katherine Vance-Righetti, M.Ed. PC/CR, counselor for both the Salem and East Liverpool campuses, makes it clear to freshman orientation students that “Mental health is health,” that 25 to 40 percent of university students will experience depressive symptoms, and that mental health counseling support is available on campus and that with advocacy and knowledge suicide is preventable.
Each suicide is unique. The stories are different and methods vary. There are a number of myths and common misunderstandings surrounding suicide that need to be dispelled. Consider some of the following:
– People who talk about suicide rarely actually do it. This is false. People who talk about suicide aren’t just looking for attention and hoping someone will call their bluff; they may actually be giving others a warning or clue about their intentions.
Anyone who talks about committing suicide needs to be taken seriously. The best thing to do is to get professional help for the person talking about suicide.
– If you talk to someone about their suicidal feelings, it will cause them to go ahead and attempt it. Experts say that getting the person to open up about his or her feelings is actually a good thing to do. It provides an opportunity that may save the person’s life.
– Once a person tries to commit suicide and fails, they probably won’t do it again. The facts prove otherwise.
After a failed suicide attempt, the chances are even greater that the individual will try it again.
– Anyone who is suicidal just wants to die and feels there is no turning back.
They may turn to other ways to relieve their pain (substance use, gambling, or overwork), but their feelings about wanting to live and wanting to die see-saw back and forth, right up to the point where they take their lives, or make the attempt.
– Generally, people who kill themselves do so after careful, rational thought.
Again, this is a myth. Very often, people who talk about or contemplate taking their lives are so blinded by their emotional or physical pain that they can’t see a way out of it other than to kill themselves.
They don’t see any alternatives and often act out of impulse to end their pain. If their pain and suffering is reduced, most individuals choose to live.
– Suicide can’t be prevented. This just isn’t true. Major depression which can lead to suicide is an illness, just like any other illness and can be treated.
Suicide does not have to be the inevitable outcome of major depression. Intervention on the part of friends, family members, or professionals can thwart a person’s suicide plan.
Many suicides can be prevented, and individuals with plans to kill themselves move past their plans, get the support and treatment they need, and begin to see life as worth living.
The Columbiana County MHRS Board participates in a Suicide Prevention Coalition.
For more information, contact the Columbiana County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board at 330-424-0195 or www.ccmhrsb.org.