We all need to do more talking and a lot more listening.
Elon University is no stranger to suicide. In the last three years, we’ve lost Trent Stetler and Demitri Allison to suicide. We lost two bright, beautiful and promising young lives, and I cannot help but wonder whether these losses could have been prevented.
When I was 13 years old, I tried to take my own life. My life had barely even begun, but I was at a place where I genuinely thought I had no reason to live. No matter how many people told me they loved me or how much positivity I had in my life, I was in a mental state where none of that mattered.
Looking back, it’s a strange feeling to explain. I knew there was love and light around me, but I couldn’t see it. It felt like I was drowning and people kept reaching out their hands to save me, but I was too tired to reach back. I still can’t make sense of why — I just did not want to live.
But I was lucky. I survived this and got the help I needed. The support I received from family, friends and professionals ensured that I would never try to hurt myself like that ever again. My family has always been open to talking about mental health. Even now, as a 21-year-old college senior, I still call my mom almost every day to check in about how I’m feeling. But even though I grew up in a positive environment open to mental health discussions, it is still hard for me to seek help at times because the negative stigma surrounding mental illness is so strong.
Though I’ve been addressing my mental health through therapy and medications for close to 10 years and I’ve always been rather open about my struggles, I still find it difficult to seek the help I need because it is so easy to feel like admitting I have mental illness is a sign of weakness.
I’m lucky that even though I feel the effects of this negative stigma, I’ve been constantly surrounded by an accepting community and people who have encouraged me to talk and been willing to listen. Many others are not that lucky — and we need to actively work to change that.
For many, the issue lies in the stigmatization and trivialization of mental health. According to College Degree Search, two times as many men ages 20-24 die by suicide than women in the same age group. Men are also four times as likely to die by suicide, while women are three times as likely to attempt it. But men are largely excluded from conversations on mental health, and we have seen the effects of this on our campus.
There are events and forums and speakers and meetings all throughout the year addressing the issue of mental health on our campus, but the problem remains. It may seem like we’re doing everything we can, but we cannot give up on supporting our students.
The sheer likelihood that another suicide could shake our campus in the near future is disheartening to say the very least. According to College Degree Search, six percent of undergraduate students have “seriously considered” suicide in the past year. Roughly 1.5 out of every 100 students have attempted it. There are about 1,100 suicides on college campuses each year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among adolescents aged 18-24.
Though it sometimes seems like a problem we can’t fix, I wholeheartedly believe suicide is preventable. I’ve seen too many people lose themselves to suicide. I don’t want to lose another. None of us do. So it is time for us to finally take this issue seriously — and most importantly, include every member of the Elon community in the conversation. Talk, listen and remember that you are not alone.