By Ali Schultz
You’re stressed. The responsibilities of everyday life never cease to pile up on your plate. Work consumes you, school seems to be swallowing whole. You keep failing tests, you got your heart broken. Your anxiety is uncontrollable. You feel like you constantly are letting others down. You don’t feel accepted by your peers and your parents don’t appreciate you. You don’t have any idea where your life is going and it seems like life is crumbling entirely in front of your face. Maybe you have a never ending case of the sads. Motivation to complete daily tasks is scarce. Sometimes just getting out of bed seems like the most daunting task.
Just know you’re not alone. Please do not look for a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the second leading killer for people in the age bracket of 10-24.
Some would argue this age gap is full of some of life’s most significant years. It is here when children become young adults, first loves flourish, and some graduate both high school and even college. We land our first jobs and are in the midst of finding ourselves as individuals (or at least attempting to do so). Simply put, we are growing up. It is no secret that with these significant transitional years we will experience some of the toughest times in our lives.
At times these stresses can appear never-ending.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month. Despite the month being near its end, we must take the time to acknowledge the significance in this matter. This month when we scroll through our Facebook feeds and other outlets of social media, we may stumble upon stories of suicide or posts encouraging students to get the help they need. These posts try to eliminate the negative stigmas attached to mental health issues and open the doors for students to relate to other cases. These posts can be helpful and can be a sign for some to alter their mindsets or get the help they may need.
What frightens me, however, is the possibility that these promotions to end negative stigmas will end simultaneously with the closing of the month. It appears some may see designated months like this as a fad. Of course, it is important to spread positivity during the honored month, but we must remember the suffering does not end for these people.
The conversation about suicide and mental health needs to be prioritized. It is of great importance for us to educate and speak out during these transitional years. We must not fear the power of this conversation. These conversations won’t necessarily come with ease. I imagine they will challenge individuals to go to places they may not have initially intended on going. But, I believe something as simple as a conversation could be the kick-start movement to put an end to these preventable tragedies.
Negative stigmas on mental health reside in many different places. They can be found in one’s living room, within the four walls of a classroom or portrayed in media outlets. These stigmas inflict embarrassment on the affected and force people into believing suicide is a way out.
We cannot force parents to engage in these talks; we can only encourage. Unfortunately, most of the time, what the media portrays is out of our hands. But we can find a common ground in schooling.
Without a doubt, suicide needs to be addressed more openly in grade schools and colleges. Not once in my grade-school life did any of my schools feel it important to address suicide. Even after a girl I grew up with tragically took her own life, the faculty members of my school only held grief counseling for those believed to be directly affected by this act.
At the time I remember wondering why someone so young, beautiful and talented would choose to cut her life so short. Hundreds attended her vigil. Not a dry eye in sight. So much potential, so much life left, gone far too soon. I remember not even being able to imagine how those close to her felt. The indescribable grief that her family and friends must have felt.
Now, being older and looking back on the situation, I can’t help but think: What if social attitudes for mental health were completely different? What if starting at a young age and continuing into college years, schools implemented mental health educational programs? Sometimes it is human nature to reject things we do not understand. That principle can apply to the conversation about mental health. We are never really educated on mental health. We may reject accepting suicide and the topic of mental health because we do not understand it. But are we ever taught differently?
If students were taught about mental health and encouraged not to discriminate from a young age, maybe these attitudes would change the outlook of those who feel this is their only way to escape.
There are resources out there; unfortunately, we just have to seek them out. As young adults, some may feel ashamed to admit the struggles they are going through. They may have too much on their plates to seek out help. That is why it should be a required school policy. We discuss puberty in fifth grade and sex ed somewhere between middle school and high school; is the discussion of mental health really any less important? Because every year the rates increase and we mustn’t let this go unnoticed.
Suicide education should be mandated in all grade schools and in colleges. It should be required for students to sit in and have stories shared of those affected by suicide. Resources should be put out on the table. The American Psychological Association believes suicide is preventable. Through diligent efforts to eliminate the negative stigmas associated with mental health I believe we can drastically cut the number of suicides. Initiate the conversation. Then recognize the immense importance to keep it going.
Suicide oftentimes results from undiagnosed mental illnesses. We must acknowledge these negligences. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of. We must not fear admitting that we have a problem. There is help out there.
We really are fortunate to have some great resources on our campus. Although one must seek them out, they are wonderful support systems created by inspiring people that do care.
Mental Health Services on campus has on-staff counselors and specialists that are always ready to have that conversation.
The Reno Crisis Center is also staffed with those who want to eliminate the taboo associated with mental illness.
My favorite organization on campus and one I hold near and dear to my heart is 10:10 Make a Wish, a non-profit organization founded by a young woman who tragically lost her younger sister at just 15 years old. This amazing organization really promotes the need for conversation. It emphasizes the importance to remain positive in life and displays the true tragedy suicide inflicts on those directly affected by it. Those experiencing difficult times can reach out and read the 10:10 blog or personally reach out to the women who started this amazing organization. Please feel free to visit their blog http://its1010makeawish.squarespace.com/ to get help or just to educate yourself on the cause.
It is our duty to eradicate the stigmas. Extend conversations past this month. Advise others that they are not in this alone.
Suicide is not the solution, no matter the pain. Every day is a new day — an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, experience new adventures, seek a different path. People do care. Life can be difficult, and often times seemingly impossible to understand but reach out. Speak up. Don’t be afraid or ashamed. You will be missed; don’t ever think for a second you won’t be.
For around-the-clock assistance, no matter the circumstance, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Ali Schultz studies journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @AliSchultzzz.