Seeking help the first step in suicide prevention

Cameron Koch

The third most likely cause of death for a person between ages 15-24 is suicide, resulting in 4,600 deaths annually, according to 2010 Center for Disease Control data.

An even larger number of attempted suicides that do not result in death, approximately 150,000, happen every year, according to CDC data.

A national study conducted by Harvard University states that about one in 25 teens has attempted suicide. About one in eight, according to the study, has thought about it.

On WKU’s own campus, Benjamin Gogins, a Cook County, Ill. freshman, died on Dec. 18 from injuries sustained after jumping from the sixth floor of Pearce Ford Tower on Dec. 15.

The numbers highlight a problem among college-aged students — one that can be prevented.

Karl Laves, assistant director at the Counseling and Testing Center, said lowering the number of suicides and attempted suicides is as simple as asking for help and talking about the subject.

Laves said many suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts refuse to seek counseling, as they view seeking help or receiving medication as admitting defeat.

“People don’t seek the help they need in our society,” Laves said. “The most important thing we can do is to encourage them to seek help.”

Numerous aspects of college life can lead to depression and in extreme cases, suicide, Laves said.

College students, especially freshmen, are on their own for the first time, with all the stress and responsibility that comes with having to think for one’s self, Laves said.

Relationship problems are also a leading cause of depression among college-aged students. As relationships fail, some students view it as the ultimate failure, rather than a natural part of the dating process, Laves said.

Laves said there are many kinds of free help available for those who are thinking about suicide, from counseling to medication. All they have to do, he said, is to seek it.

Students ages 18-25 who attend college do tend to have lower suicide rates than people of the same age who do not attend college, said Laves, thanks to what he believes is the natural connections and support groups that come from the college experience, as well as available counseling resources.

Free counseling sessions are available to all WKU students at the Counseling and Testing Center located on the fourth floor of Potter Hall.

Laves said the stigma attached to suicide in American culture is a major prohibiting factor for those who need help. As a result, people refuse to talk about the subject, even though studies have shown that talking about suicide to a person with suicidal thoughts does not increase the risk of acts of suicide.

“We are our brother’s keeper,” Laves said. “You have to speak up; you have to talk about it.”