The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Experts examine suicide trends

Diana Chien, John Skolnik and Michelle Gluckman. What do these New York University students have in common, other than their names in recent headlines of newspapers nationwide?

All three of these students took their lives in the span of one year.

“Chien, 19, had just gotten into a fight with her boyfriend when she jumped out of his 24-story apartment window. Skolnik, a junior at the time, just returned from a summer study trip in Cuba. Gluckman, 19, was at a party when she decided to end her life,” reports Stevenson Swanson of the Chicago Tribune. His article examines three of the six NYU students who died in the past two years.

Suicide at NYU, as in other colleges across the U.S., is not new. Although SMU is not immune to student suicide, the SMU counseling and testing center will not give out the history of student suicide on campus.

Studies show students are exposed to this tragedy whether they know of someone who has killed themselves or has heard of someone. Statistics from the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) show that for 10- to 24-year-olds, suicide was the third leading cause of death in 1998.

People wanting to end their lives “are looking for a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” said Derrick Blanton, a psychologist in the counseling and testing center at Southern Methodist University. He comments that, “risk factors are higher when there are more warning sign variables.” These include hopelessness, depression, withdrawl, isolation and violent tendencies.

“No one ever really knows why suicides happen,” says Blanton.

Even though experts have been analyzing the reasons for the many suicides at New York University, multiple factors could have contributed to these deaths.

“The stresses of going from college to everyday living” is one thing that could have contributed to the NYU deaths Blanton said.

However, the Contagion Effect, also known as the copy-cat effect, could contribute as well.

“If a school of someone glorifies what happened to someone through suicide…that certainly can have an effect on someone who might be contemplating hurting themselves,” reports Sam Edelstein, a writer for The Daily Orange newspaper.

“I have heard rumors of people becoming depressed on the East coast because they don’t see sunlight ever,” said SMU student Kaitlin O’Boyle on the NYU deaths.

Depression caused from lack of sunlight is called “seasonal effectiveness disorder,” Blanton said.

If sunlight is affecting a person’s mental state, it is fair to raise the question of how many people in warm weather climates have similar issues. Blanton reports that a total of 4,035 different people had appointments with a counselor in the counseling and testing center at SMU last year. He also said, “It is hard to compare a place like NYU to SMU because the number of students is very different, and NYU is going to inevitably have higher suicide numbers because the university is so much larger.” SMU has about 11,000 students, as NYU has around 38,000.

“Suicide is a problem everywhere,” said Aleene Fraser, who has a graduate degree in social work. In 1998, 30,575 Americans took their own lives, an average of 84 each day. That’s almost twice the 17,893 homicides that occurred that year,” reports SAVE.

Organizations and psychologists everywhere are trying to raise suicide awareness. Some indications of suicidal thoughts include changes in personality, changes in behavior, diminished sexual interest, recent loss through death, changes in sleep patterns, changes in eating habits, low self-esteem, and no hope for the future. These indications come from reports from San Francisco Suicide Prevention, the oldest volunteer crisis line in the U.S. for general counseling services.

SMU offers many resources for students suffering from depression or with suicidal thoughts. “There are people available to talk to on our campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” explains Blanton.

Even thought the suicide rate has decreased in the past few years, mostly due to the popularity of anti-depressants, the problem continues today, as the deaths at NYU and other universities have demonstrated. Someone taking their own life is very serious and very real. As a community, it is important to work together in avoiding this tragedy at all costs.

The counseling and Testing Center is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.

There is a crisis coverage line that students can call at 214-768-2864.

Beginning in August, SMU set up a free online screening service through the SMU Web site at: www.smu.edu/healthcenter/counseling.

The screenings are entirely confidential, and no one sees your scores.

If you or a friend is experiencing symptoms of possible depression, contact one of these resources.

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