Being a friend is best way to change stigmas

Suicide is an act that few people like to think about, much less speak about. It is something that has likely touched people’s lives in one fashion or another, and it is ranked as the 11th leading cause of death of people in the United States by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. With a ranking like that, one could almost say the topic of suicide is the elephant in the collective room of society.

However, if the stigma surrounding suicide will ever change, it needs to start with the way it is thought about by people. There is a misconception that suicide is the bane of the weak-minded, that someone who is strong would be able to pull through the types of situations and feelings that inspire suicidal thinking and the sad acts that accompany it.

This is simply not true.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 95 percent of college students who attempt suicide are suffering from a mental illness, which in most cases, is depression.

Telling people who are dealing with the crippling effects of depression or other mental illnesses to just “suck it up” and “be strong” is like condemning someone who has acquired a severe case of the flu by saying, “Make your immune system stronger, and you won’t be as susceptible to the illness.” That sort of thinking is insensitive and illogical.

The judgmental attitude needs to be scrapped if anything will ever improve for the lives of those touched by this issue.

Mental illness happens for a variety of reasons. Chemical imbalances and major life changes are two known causes of depression. Due to the cultural stigma attached to it, people slip further into the darkness of their ailment without seeking help — and that’s when suicide becomes a consideration.

Suicidal people often cannot climb out of their emotional pit alone, but with the sincere care of friends and family, recovery and an eventual return to normalcy becomes possible.

According to, a mental health Web site for college students, some common signs of depression include:

– Feelings of guilt, helplessness or hopelessness

– Trouble eating or sleeping

– Withdrawing from friends and/or social activities

– Loss of interest in hobbies, work, school, etc.

– Increased use of alcohol or drugs

– Anger

– Talking openly about committing suicide

– Taking unnecessary or life-threatening risks

– Giving away personal possessions

While some of these behaviors may seem common, being conscious of both the degree of the behavior, as well as how may signs are displayed, is part of being a friend.

So be observant. If someone you know seems to be slipping, don’t be afraid to express concern. Be willing to go with him or her to get help. Be willing to feel weird. Realize that it may feel uncomfortable to broach such a sensitive topic, but the test of a true friend is putting the unsettling feelings aside and focusing on the hurting person.

You may just save that person’s life.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.