Suicide In College and High School Students

            Jared was the star quarterback for his high school football team.  He was loved by all the girls and was known around the state as a tremendous football player, not to mention an exceptional student.  Many college recruiters said that Jared would play in the NFL. 

Jared’s senior year of high school was supposed to be his best year as a football player and he would definitely sign a football scholarship with a major university.  But Jared’s parents noticed a change in Jared’s behavior.  Three months before the season began, Jared broke up with his girlfriend he had been dating all through high school, because she cheated on him with another guy.  Jared began to lose his appetite, and was not performing well in school.  His performance on the football field began to get worse.  Jared’s friends would tell his mother he was not the same and did not want to be around them anymore. Just after the second game of Jared’s senior season, the best game he had played in his career, he shot himself in the head with a shotgun.  Jared left no note for anyone and his mother and friends could not believe that Jared would do such a thing, especially with so much going for him. No one knew why Jared committed suicide, however it could have been prevented. 

Suicide is defined as the taking of one’s own life; ruin brought on by one’s own actions.  Suicide is a very serious action that can cause great pain for everyone involved, especially the suicidal victim’s family.  Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college and high school students (“Child & Adolescent Suicide” par.1).  Suicide among high school and college students is a major societal issue that needs to be resolved.         

The first step that needs to be taken to resolve suicide among high school and college students is recognizing signs of suicide and what may cause suicide.  There are many signs of someone thinking about committing suicide however students with some form of a psychological problem, is at a higher risk that average students.  Many students can go through school and into adulthood without ever knowing the have a psychological problem.  The most common cause of suicide is depression.  Over 60 percent of all people who die from suicide suffer from major depression (“ Facts About Suicide” par. 4). Depression is one of the most treatable psychological problems. However, depression has to be recognized.  The most common signs of a person with depression are the person feels something good will never happen, they exaggerate minor failings, ignore positive events, see themselves as completely worthless and unlovable, overeat or stop eating, have difficulty falling asleep, have trouble concentrating, and feel tired all the time (Wade and Tavris p. 593). A student that is depressed my decline in school performance, lose interest in school and sports activities, and may lose the desire to socialize.  These are all signs of major depression and a person with these symptoms needs to seek medical or professional help.  Another psychological problem is students with low self-esteem. A student with low self-esteem has a bad opinion of them self and under estimate themselves.  A person with a low self-esteem will voice their opinion to their close friends and peers.  Friends that notice such actions by there friends should tell someone.  Another common psychological problem in suicidal students is an anxiety disorder.  A student with an anxiety disorder has feelings of   extreme uneasiness or worry.  They may also have extreme eagerness or may be in a mental state of tension or dread.  Students with an anxiety disorder may often have panic attacks.

Students that are bipolar are also at a high risk of committing suicide.  When someone is bipolar, they have episodes of both depression and mania, or an abnormally high state of excitement (Wade and Tavris p. 594).  During the mania episode, the person feels full of ambitions, plans, and power and will speak fast often with many jokes (Wade and Tavris p.594).  A bipolar person alternates from being depressed to having a case of mania.  Students that are perfectionists are also at a high risk of committing suicide.  These students often experience anxiety because they are afraid what they are doing is not good enough or they may become depressed when they fail a task.  Many cases have something to do with psychological problems but there are other causes for suicide.

            Some problems that have also been found to cause a student to commit suicide are not just psychological problems but, societal problems and physical problems as well.  One major example of this is students that have been abused, molested, or neglected.  Students that have experienced these things are at a great risk of committing suicide because they feel violated or hated.  Many of these students are very secluded and do not want to be social.  They feel as if they would be better off if they took their own life.  Another set of students that are also at high risks of being abused is students that are in trouble with the law (“Suicide Prevention” - Students Who Are At Higher Risk).  These students usually have grown up in a rough home and are prone to get into trouble.  They commit crimes and when they know they are in trouble with the law, they feel they would rather take their own life instead of going to jail or be punished. More students that are at a high risk are students who abuse drugs and/or alcohol.  These students are at high risk because alcohol and drugs are a central nervous system depressant (Wade and Tavris p. 165).  If a student abuses drugs and alcohol, they become more depressed over time and are very likely to commit suicide.  Students that are already experiencing anxiety or depression and abuse drugs and alcohol can become extremely depressed.  Many drugs cause a disruption of thought processes, such as the perception of time and space (Wade and Tavris p.165).  This is very dangerous and many people have committed suicide under the influence of drugs and alcohol. “ Alcoholism is a factor in about thirty percent of all completed suicides” (Facts About Suicide par. 5). “ Ninety- six percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continues their substance abuse up to the end of their lives” (Facts About Suicide par. 5).  Another group of students that are likely to commit suicide are students who face a problem with sexual orientation, such as gays and lesbians (A Guide To Suicide Prevention par. 4).  In Americas Christian based society, gays and lesbians are looked down on and causes them major anxiety and depression.  However those that are open about their homosexuality, they are less likely to commit suicide than a homosexual person that keeps their feelings to themselves (Wade and Tavris p.447).  Perhaps another group of students that are likely to commit suicide are students that are suffering from depression and have access to fire arms (Facts About Suicide par. 6).  Firearms are used more than homicides, and firearms account for sixty percent of all suicides (Facts About Suicide par. 6).  Firearms should be carefully locked up and not accessible to anyone other than the owner, because eighty three percent of firearm related suicides are committed by someone other than the firearm owner (Facts About Suicide par.6).  Another group students that are very vulnerable to suicide are females that show signs of committing suicide. Females should be watched very closely because “women attempt suicide twice as much as men because of the elevated rate of mood disorders among females, such as major depression, dysthymia and seasonal affective disorder, which are all treatable (Women & Suicide).  Suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 45-54 years old, and again after age 75 (Women and Suicide).  This is more common with women who are single, recently separated, divorced, or widowed (Women And Suicide).  The next group of students that should be monitored closely is the students that have attempted suicide previously.  Although studies show that people that attempt suicide and are not successful usually do not attempt it again, they should be watched closely. Other risk signs that should be watched closely in students that are as follows: has suicidal plans, experienced recent loss, failure to live up to their own expectations, increased isolation/ social withdrawal, not able to have fun, change in personality, experiences crying spells, giving away of possessions, feeling hopelessness/despair, and sees death as the only way to end their suffering (A Guide To Suicide Prevention).  If any of these signs are noticed, suicide can be prevented.

            There are important steps that can be taken to resolve suicide. The first step of course is to notice the signs and know the students that may be at risk of committing suicide.  The next step would be to approach the student.  The way you should approach the student is very important.  “The proper way to approach a student that shows signs of suicide are as follows:  Express your concern to the student and cite the signs you have observed.  Ask about other risk factors.  Ask about suicidal thoughts directly, using the word suicide because this does not increase the risk of suicide, in fact students are often relieved to have someone to talk to.  Encourage the student to find solutions to their problems other than suicide.  Never agree to keep serious suicidal thoughts in confidence. It is important that a student with serious suicidal thoughts meets with a counseling professional so the student can receive the support they need.  Be supportive and follow-up with the student.  If a student has expressed serious suicidal thoughts, they should seen by a member of the counseling center or student health services at your school and if these services are not available call 911.  If a student has only a few of the risk factors and denies being suicidal, it makes sense form them to speak to a counselor” (A Guide To Suicide Prevention).  Research shows that ninety percent of college students that commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness, usually depression, and it is highly treatable (Suicide par.2).  However many schools do not have resources to identify students at risk.  If there is not such help at the school where the suicidal student is attending, there are other ways to seek help.  Teachers that notice a student with suicidal thoughts should send the student to the school counselor.  The counselor should do the following:  “Listen actively. Teach problem-solving skills.  Encourage positive thinking, instead of the student saying that they cannot do something; they should say that they would try. The student should make a list of his or her good qualities. The student should be given opportunities for success and should receive as much praise as possible.  The counselor should help the student set up a step-by-step plan to achieve his goals.  The counselor should speak to the student’s family so that they understand how the student feels.  Helping others may raise a student’s self-esteem.  The counselor should get the student involved in positive activities in school and in the community.  Also, if it is appropriate, involve the student’s religious community. The counselor should make up a contract with rewards for positive and new behaviors” (Intervening in Child and Teen Suicide par.8).  Research shows that these steps can tremendously reduce the risk of a student committing suicide. 

            Suicide among high school and college students is a major societal issue that needs to be resolved.  For a person to intervene in a suicidal students life they should first recognize the signs.  In the story of Jared, at the beginning of the paper, he showed several signs of a student at risk of committing suicide.  It is sad that his friends, parents, and coaches had not noticed his signs.  If someone had recognized the sign and the techniques, motioned in this paper, to get professional help, Jared would still be living today with a successful career ahead of him.   If friends, teachers, parents, etc. watch for signs of a suicidal student and get the proper help needed for that student, it will save a persons life.    

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

A Guide To Suicide Prevention. Valdosta State University. 12 Dec. 2002. 21 Jul. 2004 <http://valdosta.edu/counseling/guide.thm>.

American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. “Child & Adolescent Suicide”. 15 Jul. 2004 <http://www.afsp.org/about/newyouth.htm>.

American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. “Women & Suicide”. 8 Jan. 2001. 15 Jul. 2004 <http://www.afsp.org/about/newwoman.htm>.

American Foundation For Suicide Prevention. “Facts About Suicide”. 15 Jul. 2004 <http”//www.afsp.org/about/factsaboutsuicide.htm>.

Healthy Place. “ Intervening in Child and Teen Suicide”.  5 Sep. 2000. 15 Jul. 2004. <http://www.healthyplace.com/communities/depression/children_11.asp>.

Suicide. Healthy Living. 14 Jun. 2001. 15 Jul. 2004 <http://www.healthyliving.com>.

Suicide Prevention: Students Who Are At Higher Risk. Public Broadcasting Service. 7 Oct. 1998. 15 Jul. 2004  <http://pbs.org/inthemix/educators/lessons/depression2/high_risk.html>.

Wade, Carole, Carol Tavris. Psychology: Custom Edition For Valdosta State University. Boston:    Pearson Custom Publishing, 2002.