Suicide is not a quiet act, so why do so many people avoid talking about it?
They say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
No matter the circumstances – ranging from various mental and emotional disorders, substance abuse and bullying – salvation will never be found in self-destruction.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. It is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24 and is the 11th leading cause of death for all Americans, averaging one suicide every 16 minutes.
In the past month alone, two Cornell undergraduates committed suicide by leaping off a bridge in close proximity to the university’s upstate New York campus. The deaths increased Cornell’s suicide total to six students in the course of a six-month period.
In 1999, David Satcher, former U.S. surgeon general, issued “The Surgeon General’s Call To Action To Prevent Suicide.” Satcher provided 15 recommendations as part of a national strategy, including an attempt at grasping suicide’s prominence in society.
“Compounding the tragedy of loss of life, suicide evokes complicated and uncomfortable reactions in most of us,” Satcher wrote. “Too often, we stigmatize the victim and surviving family members and friends. These reactions add to the survivor’s burden of hurt, intensify their isolation and shroud suicide in secrecy.
“Unfortunately, secrecy and silence diminish the accuracy and amount of information available about persons who have completed suicide – information that might help prevent other suicides,” Satcher continued.
Consider my friend, Owen Black. He’s a senior finance and marketing major at LaSalle University. Two years ago, one of his closest friends, Dan Houston of Wildwood Crest, N.J., hung himself in the basement of his parents’ house. Houston, 19, was a nursing student at Wesley College in Delaware.
“There were zero signs ‘cause he was such a normal kid in high school,” Black said, adding that although he saw Houston during a few school breaks, Houston changed. “I don’t know if he wasn’t fitting in at college where he went. And me and my friends still saw him over break, and I didn’t see him like two breaks before that, and then, I guess somebody can change that quick.”
Black found out afterward that anxiety caused Houston to suffer severe panic attacks over school-related troubles. Houston struggled with his classes, but he hid his anguish from family and friends.
“He became depressed because he wanted to be normal,” Black said, “but we all thought he was normal anyway because we didn’t know anything about it.”
Black said he believes not all people see suicide the same way. Before his friend took his own life, the subject was nothing but a bad joke.
“When you’re hanging out with a friend and you’re messing around, you tell him to go kill himself, and nobody thinks anything of it,” Black said. “But then after something like a friend’s suicide, you hear, ‘Go kill yourself,’ and you think, ‘Man, you shouldn’t say that.’”
In the midst of Cornell’s run during March Madness, players from the school’s basketball team told the New York Daily News they hoped their wins would “give the student body something to take their minds off” the suicides.
We as a nation should not overlook the issue.
“I guess the people it happens to are trying to voice out about suicide,” Black said. “I think most people don’t want to talk about it, so they don’t.”
Tom Rowan Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.