Suicide rates among college students have skyrocketed in the past few years, and especially during Nation Suicide Prevention Awareness month, it's an important issue for UTC to address.
I want to start out by saying that suicide is a complex, harrowing issue that I am not professionally trained to discuss. That in mind, I am a student at UTC who has dealt with suicidal ideation. That’s what I’ll be talking about here.
In light of the fact that September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, it’s important to acknowledge the impact this issue has on students.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can dial 988 to receive aid. The operator you are connected with may just be the person to save your life. There will be a list of additional resources at the bottom of this article.
I want to share a bit about my story, in hopes that it will resonate with anyone reading. Suicidal ideation is something that impacts a massive portion of college students, and though it is uncomfortable to talk about, it’s necessary.
My freshman and sophomore years at UTC were no walk in the park, to say the least. Depression is an ugly disease. It strips you down to your base humanity, until there is nothing left to take.
It was in that dark period, when I was at my very lowest, that one of my favorite professors sent me an email, after I had missed quite a few classes. He said that he had noticed I hadn’t been around, and asked if everything was okay.
He had cultivated an atmosphere of understanding during the lectures I had attended, which made me feel comfortable enough to respond to his email, saying that I wasn’t doing well. I didn’t go into specific detail, but I told him that I was having trouble with my mental health, which had prevented me from coming to class.
I downplayed the issue, as many of us do. I was thinking daily about ending my life. Luckily, my plans never came to fruition, and I know from data I’ve researched and from friends who I’ve talked to that my experience isn’t unique – a lot of us have felt stuck with these suicidal thoughts.
The response I received from that professor felt like a turning point for me. He told me that he understood what I was going through, even though he knew I hadn’t shared the full extent of it. He said that he believed in me, that he valued me as a person, and that because of the work I had submitted, he knew I had immense potential. He told me that he wanted to be a resource for me, and that I need not hesitate to reach out to him.
No amount of fliers put up around campus could have had an effect on me the way that email did. I felt sincere human connection – unadulterated, and from a relative stranger. I hadn’t even realized that I had needed it.
That’s not to say the fliers we see being put up by the counseling center and the center for wellbeing aren’t well intentioned. The people in those offices do care and want to help, but as someone who was dealing with extreme depression and suicidal ideation, the last thing I was prepared to do was reach out. Being offered support, unsolicited, by a professor who I deeply respected, meant the world to me. He couldn’t have known that, and I never told him, but his words helped nevertheless.
So, do I think UTC is doing enough in terms of suicide prevention? It’s a hard question to answer. My experience is my own, but what I can say is that there are a lot of people on campus who do care. If you’re honest about what you’re going through, there is help to be had. It takes a lot of strength to be able to seek that out, and you should be really proud of yourself if you’re able to. Even if you’re unable, please believe that you are valuable, that it’s possible to relieve the feelings of inadequacy and numbness that you hold in your chest, and that you are worthy of love. There is a lot of compassion to find around campus from people who want to give it genuinely and freely. You just need to be willing to be a little bit vulnerable.
I’ll end here with the aforementioned resources, in hopes that you will use them, or that you’ll be able to recommend them to a loved one. Speaking from my own experience, the counseling center is a great place to start. No matter how isolated you may feel, you need to know that there are people you can go to – real humans who will see the humanity in you, and who will care about you if you give them the opportunity.
How to Help Someone in Crisis:
Tennessee Crisis Services: