Tragedies bring suicide awareness

December 20, 2007

by Taylor Aswell

According to a 2004 study by The American Association of Suicidology, suicide is the third leading killer for people ages 15-24.

In the past 60 years, the suicide rate has quadrupled for males and doubled for females; suicide accounted for 12.9 percent of all the deaths for young people in 2004.

These are a few facts about a killer that has recently made its name known to Tech.
In the past year and a half, Tech has had to cope with the suicides of two of its students. Suicide is a growing problem for college-age students, and being informed about it is one way to help better understand it.

20-year-olds Tyler Clark and Jason Chandler both committed suicide while they were students at Tech.
Clark shot and killed himself around the dates of July 31-August 2 of 2006. Chandler did the same on Dec. 9, 2007.

Ida Chauvin, counselor educator for the department of psychology and behavioral sciences, said recognizing the signs of depression could help in distinguishing someone who might want to commit suicide.

Chauvin also said some of the signs of depression include a loss of appetite, a depressed mood, sleep disturbances, agitation and low self esteem.
Chauvin said if someone is expressing characteristics like this, actions should be taken to help them.

“If you have a friend like this, you should encourage them to get help,” Chauvin said. “Encourage your friend to talk to someone else about their feelings.”

She also said people surrounding the suicide victim should not feel bad about letting their friends down.

“After a suicide, we all try to read the signs and say to ourselves, ‘Should I have seen this coming?'” Chauvin said. “Not all completed suicides leave those trails. It is sad that in having to deal with grief and loss issues, we also are preoccupied with the sense that ‘we should have known.'”

She said when a tragedy like this occurs, the person who committed suicide is not the only one who suffers.

“The collateral damage to others is considerable. In addition to loss and grief, there is a sense of betrayal. Friends, simply put, were not allowed to do their jobs. Most of us generally stand by with a sense of despair and disbelief and continue to grapple for answers,” Chauvin said.

Chauvin said the social structure of a college student can affect the way they feel.

“Say someone just started college and they have few or no friends, they may be more inclined to feel depressed,” she said. “College students are given the ability to see counselors, and they should utilize these benefits.”

Chauvin said college students have their own reasons for committing suicide.

“College students are among those who, because they are unable to find other acceptable solutions to resolve social and personal crises, are at risk of hurting themselves. The best help comes when you help a student change behaviors, change environments, or enhance situations in beneficial ways,” she said.

Chauvin said people who commit suicide usually show signs of depression, but not everyone who commits suicide exhibits symptoms.

“Some people commit suicide without intentionally wanting to,” Chauvin said. “A child might be mad at his parents and threaten to choke himself until they listen, and when doing so he might actually kill himself unintentionally.”

Chauvin also said getting help is the best thing you can do for someone if they are dealing with these emotions.

“Counseling is a great help,” she said. “It can help determine how healthy someone is and where the problems are.”

Kristy Stokes, counselor at Tech, said there are certain things to do when helping people who might be dealing with thoughts of suicide.

“We are trained to ask specific questions and assess the situation,” Stokes said. “This way we can see the severity and lethality of the problem.”

Stokes said it is also important to offer students professional help if they need it.

“Thoughts of suicide are very serious,” she said. “So it is very important to talk with the student further about their thoughts and feelings.”

Stokes said it is hard to try and give an answer for how to talk with someone who is dealing with thoughts of depression.

“There are methods of assessing and treating persons with suicidal thoughts, but it is a very individual process,” she said.

Stokes said one thing that is always done to help the students is collaborating with other professionals.

“When someone is dealing with this kind of emotional stress, it is always good to confer with other counselors in order to make the best treatment decisions,” Stokes said.

Chauvin said she agrees with Stokes since getting help is the best thing for the student.

“If you have a friend who has the symptoms of depression get them help as soon as you can,” Chauvin said. “The counseling services are there to help.”