Anxious, overwhelmed and depressed. At a time when many young adults are expected to be thrilled with beginning a new chapter – new experiences, fascinating people, “suicide” is the last thought entering anyone’s mind. However, universities are witnessing alarming increases in severe mental illnesses such as psychiatric disorders and major depression. Suicide has also been revealed to be the second leading cause of death among college students. People who previously had no history of mental health, showed symptoms within their first few years while simultaneously, those who had symptoms, showed an increase while at college. But why, you ask? Well, it is a culmination of many life-changing events, leaving many feeling isolated and feeling so overwhelmed they are unable to cope alone.
Walking around campus and you may see may faces casually wander away. Most of the time, their presence leaves our mind as quickly as we briefly noticed them. Would you ever think that a handful of those individuals are suffering alone? University is a new experience and could honestly, be a period of marked vulnerability for anyone. For instance, some people had to move away from their support systems and experiencing social isolation could be extremely difficult for anyone to come to terms with. University transitioning can trigger anxiety, depression or worsen current existing psychological problems. There is this misconception that people need to experience a major traumatic event for themselves to be led to suicide, but many college students experience overwhelming anxiety from their perception of their situation transitioning into university life. Many students have listed the intense pressure to compete, increasing debt, and uncertain futures as top reasons which make them unable to cope with their current life situations and university life, in general.
As young adults working to get our lives together, it is a familiar feeling when we are overwhelmed by enormous pressure to excel. Today, we face fierce competition and falling short, could be tremendously devastating to one’s self concept and life security.
Dr. Su-Ting Teo, director of student health and wellness at Ryerson University, noted this alarming increase among college students. Some of it is health, some of it is relationships, some of it is academics and finances,” she added. However, what was most perplexing was that many students today are dealing with more than three of these problems simultaneously. She also noted that there is this common shared belief that students today have it easier than generations before. Especially considering the countless advancements in today’s society making it more convenient for the young people of today. Dr. Su-Ting Teo also pointed out that there is this lack of understanding for how much young people really have to deal with, notably considering that more is being demanded yet there is still growing uncertainty.
Furthermore, another reason why suicide rates among college students are increasing is because, despite there being a progressive growth in acknowledgement and acceptance of mental health awareness, many students still feel and fear the repercussions of seeking help. Dr. Drum, from the University of Texas, concluded that students fear the stigma that is still attached to admitting to having mental health problems and many also fear that they may face professional or career consequences. As a result, many students who do need help, will never initiate action to receive treatment for their issues.
Nonetheless, many campuses have equipped themselves with counselling services and offer a wide variety of mental health programs to their own students. York University is no different. York University houses Active Minds, a purely student-run mental health awareness, education and advocacy group that strives to transform the campus atmosphere by informing the student body about issues and disorders. Active Minds understands and focuses on September being suicide awareness month and as follows, our goal is to spread awareness through educative means such as peer outreach to reduce stigma, so students will feel more welcomed to reach out and seek help. We will also host events in the near future such as tabling, workshops and socials as well as attend others, so we will be able to provide information and interact with the York-wide community to really help advocate the urgent need of suicide awareness on our very campus, among others and hopefully inspire struggling students to seek help.
Ultimately, suicide hits us closer to home than what anyone might imagine. It is not an exclusive problem that only particular individuals face. As suicide holds no boundaries to who it can affect, it should no longer be reserved as quiet whispers in dorm rooms or be dealt with in privacy where one can suffer alone. Prevention is only as effective as its widespread awareness. Despite university being a time of joyous risks, and discoveries, we need to be mindful of behavioral changes and the warning signs. Suicide is a crisis on campus.