Due to the substantial loss of lives from suicide each year, it has become a prevalent issue in our present day society. Advocates who are trying to tackle suicide have written articles about the increasing mortality rates within children and young adults while some have even hosted conferences to cover the importance of this topic in hopes of alleviating the issue. But due to large amounts of stress from education or personal issues, people feel that suicide is the only way to solve their problems. This is especially vocalized within the college scene, where university students struggle to balance the stress from college class rigor and personal limitations. Currently, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students. The rate of suicide has nearly doubled within girls and boys since 2007. However, even with the attempts to solve the issue, society has failed to create a sustainable solutions to reduce suicide. So how do we tackle the issue, especially within the next working generation? We need to further discuss and humanize suicide.
Since the second leading cause of death for college students is suicide, many have deduced that this is due to stress and overwork. However, differently ranked colleges have varying suicide rates. For instance, the average suicide rate for teens ages 15 to 19 is 7.4 suicides per 100,000. However, according to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has consistently had a higher suicide rate than the national average, most recently recorded at 12.5 suicides per 100,000 students. “People on campus are a lot more aware of suicide because it happens so often” says Ramya Nagarajan, currently a sophomore at MIT. A lot of the stress comes from overworking and sadly students think the only way to resolve their stress is to take their lives. Nevertheless, schools with less rigor and prestige also have suicide present in their culture. When discussing the topic of suicide with Jonathan Chai, freshman at UC Riverside, he was surprised to have seen the subject as such a prevalent topic at this T100 school. “It’s definitely come up here and there more often than I expected but it’s not unbelievable.”
Another factor of stress that can perpetuate into suicidal thoughts is one’s ability to manage their schedule and self discipline themselves. Hobie Gementera, a freshman at University of California, San Diego says that he has witnessed a mental shift between highschool and college. “In high school you have to get good grades to get into a good college. Whereas in college, the freedom of choosing your classes and disciplining yourself to study makes it not stressful in some ways”. Going to a school with a tolerable rigor that is tailored to one’s limits relates to how students tackle stress. At Harvey Mudd, current freshman Monica Yao talked about how the first semester for freshmen is particularly rough because the majority of them experience a “half fail” phenomenon within their classes. The purpose of this “half fail” is to allow freshman to adjust to the hard curriculum Harvey Mudd provides. This also supposedly lowers the suicide rate because after freshman have adjusted to the rigor of the school, their future class grades tend to improve, reducing the stress load that can lead to suicide.
So, how should this issue be tackled? In order for society to change their mindset regarding suicide and mental health, we must humanize the issue. People are still scared to seek help because of negative misconceptions that society perpetuates towards these topics. Similar to what we have seen with gay marriage, the longer we immerse ourselves in an issue the more understanding people will be. Back in the 70’s, only 30% of the U.S. population supported gay marriage. Now, about 70% supports the cause. By showing it is okay to experience suicidal thoughts, society will become more aware of this serious issue.Moreover, people affected by suicide will be more willing to receive help.
To the seniors who are going off to college this fall, please put your mental health first. If you are struggling with stress that can perpetuate into suicidal thoughts, please seek help. A variety of the universities you will be attending have mental health departments that are more than willing to help you. If you are struggling at Mills, you can reach out to the wellness counselors. If we want to prevent a loved one from taking their life, we need to talk about suicide more. We must humanize the issue.