By going to school and living in one of the safest and most well-off cities in the country, it is easy to get wrapped up in homework, classes, work, hanging out with friends and the myriad of other activities and responsibilities that college students typically encounter. Amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, issues of life and death and serious grievances rarely surface. However, that does not negate the fact that many students among us suffer in very serious ways, sometimes to the point that they take their own lives.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that, “For youth between the ages of 10 and 24, suicide is the third-leading cause of death. It results in approximately 4,600 lives lost each year.” Unfortunately, UC Irvine had its own small share of suicides.
According to the UCI Police Department, from the year 2000 to early March 2008, there were nine suicides and 24 attempts. Drug overdose is the most common method used in these attempts, while jumping off buildings is the most common method used in successful suicides. In contrast, the CDC reports firearm use as the most common method of youth suicides nationally.
Major risk factors for suicide in general, says UCI Counseling Center Director Dr. Jeanne Manese, include “isolation, alcohol [or] substance abuse and previous attempts [at suicide].” Other risks include a family history of mental illness and/or suicide and having the means to follow up on suicidal thoughts, such as access to a weapon. In addition, the CDC lists “stressful life events or loss, exposure to the suicidal behavior of others” and “incarceration” as other major factors.
There are numerous resources available at UCI for anyone who feels they or someone they know might be heading toward taking their own life, or if they are emotionally or mentally troubled. Perhaps the first that comes to mind is the Counseling Center, located in Student Services I, Room 201. As its Web site states, it “is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday for scheduled appointments, and a counselor is always available on an urgent [emergency] basis.” After these hours, one can call the Campus Police at (949) 824-5223, or simply dial 911.
In addition to appointments, the Counseling Center and the Health Education Center have related information on their Web sites, and the former offers a peer-led, student-focused series of seminars called “Friends Helping Friends.”
“The seminars, covering a wide range of topics,” according to the Counseling Center Web site, strive to “assist [students] in developing skills that will enable [them] to identify and support a friend in distress.” One upcoming seminar especially relevant to the issue of suicide, entitled “Is My Friend Depressed? What Can I Do?” will cover topics such as “recognizing the signs of depression and suicide, as well as how to support and assist a friend in need.” It will be held on May 13.
“The problem with suicide is that in the moment when someone commits suicide, there’s a hopelessness and a helplessness that goes on [in their mind],” Manese explained. “So when a person often is more depressed and suicidal, they think only bad things are going to happen. That’s their negative view. … And what I think is very important for people to understand is that you can feel hopeless one minute, [but] things change. Both a person can change and, externally, things can change.” She went on to describe how events, both good and bad, often happen beyond our control, and that, “whatever is occurring in this particular moment may not be at all the same tomorrow or a week from now.”
Of course, while issues of extreme depression and suicide are very serious, they are not the only reasons for visiting the Counseling Center and taking advantage of its related programs and services. “One of the things we always want students [and people] to know is that we’re here to help,” Manese said.
In addition to helping students cope with depression and other issues possibly related to suicide, the Counseling Center shines light on how to address daily concerns.
“The Counseling Center is a center to address the whole spectrum of students’ concerns, from the concern of adjusting to college, [to] the concern of stress.” Manese said. “Management of stress [and] learning how to cope with all kinds of things is [critical] in terms of the spectrum of feeling hopeless and helpless.”
Manese also expressed that the ultimate goal of the Counseling Center is to help the student body. “The Counseling Center is for every student, and it’s free, and we have lots of programs that both our psychologists do as well as programs that our peer and student coaches do,” Manese said. “Everything is geared around, ‘How do we service the students on campus the best?'”
So while suicides have occurred at UCI, there are places with concerned and dedicated people to turn to