Identifying signals of despair


Mayra Garcia / The Advocate

Suicide prevention and awareness illustration.

By Roxana Amparo, Associate Editor

Mental health advocates raised awareness for those who may be in the depths of despair by dedicating the month of September as National Suicide Prevention Month.

Suicide is one of the top 10 causes of death in the United States, ranking just below heart disease and cancer, according to data collected in 2015 from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website.

The data also shows, each year there are over 44,000 suicides on average and 121 suicides per day in the U.S.

“I know a person who attempted suicide five times and did not succeed,” Contra Costa College African-American studies major Vada Mahan said. “The person had been molested as a kid and didn’t know who to talk to. It followed them throughout adulthood.

“Suicide prevention support is needed. This month has been set aside to acknowledge it. It should be a 12-month acknowledgment.”

Listed among the more common reasons for suicidal thoughts are mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Data collected in 2015 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Data & Statistics Fatal Injury Report shows the number of people who visited a hospital due to self-harm is nearly 494,000 in the U.S.

According to the data, higher suicide rates are prevalent among Caucasians, followed by Native Americans.

Mahan said suicide has to be brought to the forefront and treated with the utmost importance.

“You have to let those people know that if they do come forward, they will be treated as someone special. People have kids who have hidden secrets that feel they cannot divulge because of fear of ridicule.”

CCC offers services on campus for students combating emotional strains.

CCC’s Behavioral Assessment Team (BAT) is a group of administrators who have been trained to recognize emotionally distressed students and help link them to college resources, like counselors or the Student Wellness Program on campus.

The Student Wellness Program is a therapeutic program for students who may be facing family conflicts, stress or other emotional challenges that prohibit them from succeeding academically.

Sociology major Kadijah Walker said she knows about the Wellness Center on campus but having staff and faculty who walk the campus on a daily basis asking students how they are doing would increase the support students feel on campus.

“If someone asks how someone is doing then maybe they will think twice about it (suicide),” Walker said.

“We need to know how to recognize the signs when someone is depressed because we really don’t know. We need to know when someone is isolated, when they stop talking or when they change and go into the dark — we are not aware.”

Walker said both younger and older students can feel “hopelessness” in their life when they feel their efforts aren’t good enough.

“They get an F and they feel hopelessness because they worry about what will happen to them,” Walker said.

“What are my parents going to think? Am I dumb? All of (these questions) play a mind game with you and make you want to stop and give up and think, ‘why keep going’.”

For some students, suicide has impacted their lives and the lives of their own family members.

Psychology major Mary Youngblood said depression led her brother’s ex-wife to commit suicide.

“She was depressed because of her relationship and called my brother because they have an 8-year-old son.”

Youngblood said her brother saw his son waiting outside of the front door and was upset because his son was left outside without supervision.

“When they went inside the house, she had already shot herself. She was in her bedroom dead. (My brother’s) son came screaming because his mom was dead on the floor.”

Having programs available and letting people know how they can reach those programs when having suicidal thoughts can save their lives, Youngblood said.

Among the leading methods of suicide is suicide by firearm, accounting for almost 50 percent of suicide deaths, according to the 2015 American Foundation for Suicide Prevention website. Poison and suffocation were the next common methods of suicide as of  2015.

Walker said, “Suicide attempts and thoughts come from hopelessness. I believe waking up in the morning and feeling this hopelessness creates this chain reaction of thoughts about giving up or why should I even try.”

CCC students seeking help from professionals can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for confidential help. Services are available 24 hours and an online chat option is available.

“This is very real and if it’s not in your house, it is still a part of your life,” Youngblood said. “We need to help each other.”