Health Services offers help with mental illnesses

Kelly Byer

Suicide claims the lives of more than 1,100 college students a year, the second-leading cause of death among college students. Suicidal thoughts commonly manifest as a symptom of depression.

Despite the American Medical Association figures, society still views suicide as a taboo.

“Many people look at depression as a weakness versus just being an illness,” said Pamela Farer-Singleton, chief psychologist of Psychological Services. She explained people are often afraid to seek help for fear of being negatively labeled as “crazy” or “deranged.”

Suicide stigmas and myths such as this are what the Office of Safety and Security is working to disprove.

During this month, the Office of Safety and Security is trying to collect $1,000 for the Portage County Suicide Prevention Coalition while increasing suicide awareness.

“The main objective is just to reach out to as many people as possible,” said Zaki Hazou, assistant security manager for Resident Services.

Hazou said the office will take the money to the Mental Health and Recovery Board and will help the organization in its involvement on campus.

“All donations are welcome,” Hazou said.

Officer Jeffrey Futo said the university held a similar fundraiser several years ago when a mother who lost her son to suicide wanted to raise awareness on campus.

To get the word out, Hazou said campus security has spoken to freshman orientation classes and provided information at hall meetings. Security aides will also be distributing forms about the suicide awareness and prevention fundraiser this month.

“Our security aides are taking the initiative to go out and talk to people,” Hazou said.

A suicide awareness training session will be held at 1 p.m. Oct. 19 to help people better understand suicide and what can be done to prevent it.

The Office of Safety and Security will send an e-mail to inform students about the events, and Hazou said anyone interested in attending should contact him at [email protected]

Causes of suicide

While specific reasons for suicide or suicidal thoughts depend on the individual, depression is often a common factor, Farer-Singleton said.

“Most people that do commit suicide have a depressive disorder,” Farer-Singleton said.

Having suicidal thoughts, poor concentration, a dissatisfaction with life and feelings of guilt or sadness are just a few other symptoms of depression. Other problems, such as financial, personal or academic stress, can also lead to depression or thoughts of suicide, Hazou said.

About 37 percent of Kent State students reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function between one and 10 times within a year, according to a 2004 American College Health Association survey.

In addition, about 14 percent of Kent State students in that same survey reported seriously considering suicide between one and 10 times in the span of a year.

“The good news is that depression is treatable,” Hazou said. “The bad news is that depression is the No. 1 factor in suicides.”

Signs someone is suffering

“We as a society have to be aware that people amongst ourselves are dealing with these issues,” Futo said.

People should pay close attention to friends and family members because a person’s actions often signal a call for help.

“They’re very discreet about it oftentimes,” Futo said. “They’re just hoping people will pick up on what they’re telling them.”

If a person is making comments about harming themselves or committing suicide, it shouldn’t be thought of as a joke, Futo said.

How to help

If you notice a person exhibiting any suicidal tendencies, it is important to get them help. Referring a person to a professional or offering support are both ways to offer assistance.

“If you know someone going through tough times, get some help,” Hazou said. “Don’t take suicidal thoughts lightly.”

Farer-Singleton said if you think a person is suicidal, you should ask him or her directly.

“I think it’s a myth to believe that when you ask, you’re putting the idea in their mind because it’s already there,” Farer-Singleton said. “The major issue is just telling them you accept them and support them despite what their feelings are.”

Supporting them, however, doesn’t mean promising to keep their secret.

Hazou said the first step in defeating suicide is treating the cause.

“The way to decrease it is to address the cause,” Hazou said. “If we can tackle depression, we can treat it from there.”

Contact safety reporter Kelly Byer [email protected].