Suicide is a sensitive, taboo subject most do not like to discuss, and for good reason. According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices for Education) and the CDC, 44,965 Americans die each year by suicide.
However, the topic needs to be discussed, especially on college campuses. Of the 44,965 lives lost, approximately 1,100 of them are college students. This makes suicide ranked as college students’ second-leading cause of death.
According to Brian Krylowicz, Director of the Springfield College Counseling Center, approximately 7 percent of the Springfield College student body will seriously consider suicide this year and about 1 percent may actually attempt.
It may be sobering, uncomfortable, or even frightening to see statistics about suicide so casually displayed. However, facilitating the conversation and taking away the stigma around suicide are crucial steps in helping the students who need it the most.
“I think so many people have been touched either by completed suicides, or attempted suicides, that I think people take it very seriously,” said Krylowicz.
“Most people who are in this spot don’t want to die, they just want the pain to stop. And so, the way that people can really intervene is when people are hurting… is taking that extra time — 15 minutes, an hour, a day — to just let someone know they really care…”
Instead of brushing off friends’ outward actions because of fear of saying the wrong thing or getting into something that will take up a lot of time, students must become advocates for their friends’ emotions. Having someone close just paying enough attention to realize when things aren’t right could be the only reason a student doesn’t take their own life.
However, it can be hard to tell the difference between a friend just having a bad day versus them having suicidal, depressive thoughts. Krylowicz explained that if a student has a gut feeling about their friend, they’re probably right since students know their friends in a family-style fashion in college.
“What the students at the college have over me is if this is your friend, you know what they’re normally like,” Krylowicz said. “Usually, when you get that moment like, ‘This isn’t my normal friend,’… I think what you have is history, so when you know that person is acting totally different… I always tell [students], ‘Listen to your stomach, listen to the hairs on the back of your neck, listen to your shoulders..’
“I can go off a long list of issues of someone making comments of suicide, or dying, or they wish they weren’t here; you could have it where you have elements where they disconnect from people, I see a lot of times on campus where they want to anger their friends because they want them to reject them. Like, ‘Please, I’m so miserable, please go away from me. That way I can maybe do harm to myself.’”
Student Resident Assistants, more commonly known as RA’s, are oftentimes the students who see what really happens within student life itself under a microscope. Because they are uncertified professionals and are simply trained to report, RA’s may not be the best resource for students coping with suicidal thoughts to utilize.
However, an RA is a great person to talk to about the day-to-day physical and mental struggles most students face because they are students first.
Kelsey Prince is a junior in the Health Sciences major. As a second-year RA, Prince stressed from her experience that it was important to check up on the people who might seem the most fine.
“Someone could go to class for like, 50 minutes, and be fine, and go back to their room and be there by themselves… you could never know what’s going on behind that door, and the minute they step out, they could be the happiest person you’ve ever seen,” said Prince.
Olivia Tocchio, a sophomore in the Psychology program and first-year RA in Alumni, said that especially because of COVID-19, most college students are definitely all in the same boat feeling like outliers.
“This is a time when people are feeling more isolated and this is a time when people are feeling more alone, so it’s definitely a time where there are greater rates of depression and anxiety because [students] never really know what’s going on… “ said Tocchio. “It’s really difficult to know what every day is going to bring, and that definitely increases everyone’s different feelings.”
Though this article is coming during Suicide Prevention Month, it needs to be stressed that suicide is not a topic that deserves just a single month of recognition. Suicide prevention needs to happen every day, and both Tocchio and Prince agree.
“I think my biggest thing is that I know September is the month of Suicide Prevention and Awareness, but I think it’s really important to make sure it’s throughout the whole year and not just solely in September that everybody’s checking in with everybody throughout the year,” Prince stated. “Say we get sent home or whatever, something could flip like that and it’s really important to check in more than just one month.”
Tocchio added, “Especially at this school, we have such a good sense of community, so like checking on peers; if you notice that there’s somebody you’re not seeing as often, or someone you have a class with you may not be close with, it’s okay to reach out to them and just be like, ‘Hey, I wanted to check in on you, just making sure you’re okay,’ just little check-ins like that, you never really know what someone’s going through.”
Being “aware” of suicide is easy enough; everyone knows what the cold definition of suicide is and what that entails. However, being a friend to someone, going that extra step to make sure they know they are a loved and valued person, is all that people struggling with this fight are asking of their peers.
If you know someone who is going through a crisis, do not hesitate to be there for them and ensure that their issues are taken care of by mental health professionals. As students, we cannot be expected to be the primary source of help for our friends, but we can make sure that they know they are not alone in their battle.
If you are in need of help, know that you truly are not alone. Springfield College students are a group unlike any other in their caring and empathy towards their classmates, and you are an integral part of our community. We love and need you here with us.
Call the Counseling Center at (413) 748-3345 if you or someone you know are in crisis.