Sept. 10 of each year has been designated World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). According to the WSPD website, more than 800,000 people take their own lives each year, with thousands more attempting suicide. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the day’s observance, with the chosen theme “Take a minute, save a life.”
According to the WSPD website, personal connection is a key factor in preventing suicide.
“(People who have attempted suicide) often talk movingly about reaching the point where they could see no alternative but to take their own life… They often describe realizing that they did not want to die but instead wanted someone to intervene and stop them,” the WSPD website states. For many in the Harding community, suicide prevention hits close to home.
“I’ve just had a lot of issues with depression in the past, especially in high school,” senior Brian Cozart said. “I tried to commit suicide when I was in high school, so it’s a very personal issue for me and my family. It’s something that we’ve had to deal with and something that, luckily, with a lot of therapy, but — especially a lot of support — I’ve been able to mostly put behind me.”
According to Cozart and Harding counselor Briana Cunningham, there are a number of ways to personally help those struggling with suicidal impulses.
Look for the signs
According to Cunningham, students should be on the lookout for ways to intervene at the first signs of troubling behavior, including under- or over-eating and sleeping, skipping classes, irritability, restlessness, tying up loose ends and speaking as though they are dissatisfied with life.
“It’s really like a cluster of different things that people are dealing with, but especially if they begin to talk like they don’t want to be here,” Cunningham said. “A lot of times people will begin to say things that just don’t quite feel right — don’t quite sound right — and you’re not really sure if they really mean what they’re saying.”
Be a friend
According to Cozart, family and strong friendships were an important resource for him in high school.
“You have to definitely meet people where they are, and don’t be pushy or overbearing, because it’s just nothing more irritating than somebody up in your business, especially if you’re having a bunch of issues,” Cozart said. “It’s good to show your support, but in the way that that person needs it.”
Cunningham encouraged strong friendships, but cautioned against taking matters into your own hands, as it can be detrimental to the health of the friends. Her advice: leave suicide watches to the professionals.
Take advantage of mental health resources
According to Cunningham, student mental health resources includes more than just the campus Counseling Center.
“If someone is having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming themselves, what we suggest, if you’re on campus, is that you get yourself to the emergency room. Or if you’re a friend and you think they’re serious about harming themselves, get them to the emergency room, and if that requires calling Public Safety, then that’s a good route to take,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham also advised that students seeking help consider seeing a physician rather than a traditional counselor, as they are also able to evaluate symptoms and diagnose depression.
If you see trouble, act
Although suicide is often signaled by poor self care, Cunningham noted that it is often an impulsive decision made on the part of the individual.
“If you feel like that person is threatening to harm themselves any moment, as a friend, I would just say push the panic button and get somebody in there quick who’s qualified to deal with that situation,” Cunningham said. “If you really think that they might hurt themselves, get Public Safety or the police, or if they’re in the car with you, go immediately to the emergency room and get them the help that they need.”
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or The Harding University Counseling Center in McInteer 313, at 501-279-4347.