What overwhelming issue could it have been? Could Stacey’s problem have been detected earlier? Were the pressures of school or family conflict or trying to keep up with the expectations of others just been too much? We’ll never know, for Stacey took it to the grave with her, leaving question marks in the minds of everyone who knew her.
Stacey graduated with honors from a Christian school and entered Georgia Southern University on schedule. She quickly became involved in campus activities and was liked by all who knew her. It made little sense that she would go to her room one night and commit suicide.
Questions would flow across campus as to why Stacey had taken her life into her own hands when she had everything going for her. It just did not make sense.
It never does. Countless youth struggle with this situation every day. What is it that causes one to cross the line from sanity to insanity? It is, after all, an extremely thin line we maneuver each day. At any moment, something can cause the brain to see a problem as too overwhelming. This “something” becomes so enormous in the mind that one cannot see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
In a moment’s notice, hope disappears. There seems to be no way out for the individual other than taking one’s life. When this happens, one struggles with numerous questions without answers. We are all left in the dark, and so many lives are affected by what has happened.
In the U.S., approximately
2 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 commit suicide each year. Another
2 million attempt suicide and have to be treated by doctors or nurses (CDC Wonder). Suicide was the third-leading cause of death among those ages 15–24 in 2000 (Gould et al., 2003). According to Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, “for every person murdered in the U.S., two die by suicide today. Deaths by suicide are tragic because they are preventable with effective treatments.”
There are so many complex factors involved with suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “more than 90 percent of youth suicide victims have at least one key psychiatric disorder, especially mood disorders.” Life stressors, which can include recent interpersonal losses and legal or disciplinary problems, can help facilitate a young person’s mental state, which can lead to potential suicide if left untreated or diagnosed.
Parents and other adults can be educated about the warning signs of suicidal behavior. These should be detected as early as possible, and help should be sought immediately. The warning signs below were abstracted from the American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry Teen Suicide Fact Sheet:
• Change in eating/sleeping habits
• Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities
• Violent acts, rebellious behavior, running away
• Drug/alcohol use
• Unusual neglect of personal appearance
• Marked personality change
• Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
• Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches and fatigue
• Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
• Not tolerating praise or rewards
Dr. Jodi Caldwell, the director of the Counseling and Career Center at Georgia Southern, said that GSU has psychologists on call 24/7 for students in need of counseling.
“On the weekends, students may contact the University Police, who will network the student to the proper resource for help. We also work in conjunction with East Georgia Regional Hospital, providing follow-up when a patient is considered safe. All services of this nature to the students are always free at GSU.”
Caldwell also shared a veterans suicide hotline, (912) 435-6965, which is available through the Military Resource Center on campus.
“Suicide is the result of various mental health issues, and providing hope and resources is so crucial in helping reduce suicide,” said Caldwell. “Education is the biggest piece of the puzzle, and providing the right resources is key in dealing with the conflict.”
Pineland Mental Health in Statesboro offers a crisis line at (912) 764-5125. One may also contact East Georgia Regional Medical Center at (912) 486-1000. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, (800) 273-8255 or www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org, provides free and confidential crisis counseling 24/7 and has answered more than 3 million calls since its launch in 2005.
Charles Cravey is a freelance writer and photographer in Statesboro. He is a frequent contributor of articles and photographs to the Statesboro Herald.