Recent campus suicide may spark discussions about mental health

The director of wellness programs said she hopes students and faculty will be more open to conversations about suicide and mental health after the apparent campus suicide.
“I think there’s just a stigma about mental health that keeps people from having these types of conversations,” Melissa Sage-Bollenbach said. “People need to break down the fear of having those conversations.”
Although suicide may be difficult to talk about, students should know the importance of discussing mental health issues and the importance of seeking help if they exhibit suicidal tendencies or thoughts.
And these conversations are more important than ever as young people may be at higher risk for suicidal behavior because of family or school pressure or major life changes, according to www.dbsalliance.org.
“I think with mental health, in general, people are cautious because of judgment,” Sage-Bollenbach said. “In this developmental age, people are very sensitive about what others think about them.”
She said mental health issues may be difficult to talk about because they are not visible like injuries or physical illnesses.
“It’s different than somebody who is diabetic,” Sage-Bollenbach said. “[That’s] a health issue, but we’re not afraid to talk to someone when they’re diabetic about their diabetes.”
Janine Donahue, the director of Counseling for Health Services, said some people considering suicide may exhibit identifiable signs and symptoms.
These signs include drug or alcohol abuse, isolation, rehearsing suicide, a sudden sense of calm and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness or self-doubt, according to dbsalliance.org.
However, some considering suicide may not exhibit any signs of suicidal thoughts or tendencies.
Donahue said some people considering suicide may be “self-contained” or prefer to keep to themselves. Others may “become very adept at putting on a good face in real life, but that may not be what they’re feeling internally,” she said.
She said it is important students educate themselves about the signs and symptoms, however students should not feel it is their fault if they are unable to identify people who may be considering suicide.
“The reality is without some of the signs, there really is nothing we can do,” Donahue said.
A tragedy such as the recent apparent suicide may cause some students to re-experience some of their past losses, grief, sadness or depression, she said.
Although students may have healed after a past loss, there may still be some elements they haven’t completely worked through, she said.
“It’s just normal life,” Donahue said. “When any of us have lived through something that’s difficult, we not only have memory of that event but we have memories of the feelings.”
In the early morning of Nov. 23, freshman Joel Wilson was found dead in his room in Geisert Hall. The death was an apparent suicide.
If students know someone who is exhibiting suicidal thoughts, they should never promise confidentiality, according to dbsalliance.org. Instead, they should involve other people.
Also, supporting the person who may be considering suicide is important as well as expressing understanding and concern.
If students want to meet with a counselor on campus, they can call Health Services at x2700 to make an appointment.