College suicide, and mental health in general, are on the rise according to health officials and reports. PLNU is no different. In recent faculty meetings on campus, it was mentioned that since the beginning of this semester, 13 students came forward saying they contemplated suicide, and there were three attempts made.
The American College Health Association (ACHA) conducts yearly studies in which they document suicide data for all ages in rates per 100,000-person population format. Their most recent survey listed online was in 2015.
The numbers show that “young” persons, ages 15-34, accounted for 13.6% of the population and 12.4% of the suicides in 2015. They were not the biggest number, though. Middle aged persons, ages 35-54, accounted for 26.2% of the population and 37.3% of the suicides in 2015.
Delaney O’Keefe, a child development major and D-group leader, has lost multiple friends to suicide. She experiences depression and had suicidal thoughts in the past. She admits these numbers are surprising to her at first, but shouldn’t be totally shocking to students unaware of what is happening on campus.
“We do have such a tight-knit community here, I feel like I would’ve known,” O’Keefe said. “This is more than it being like, ‘Why is this happening on Point Loma’s campus to cause people to feel that way?’ It’s like, no, this is a reality, a lot of people contemplate suicide.”
Dan Jenkins is the M.A. in Clinical Counseling Program Director at the Mission Valley campus. He oversees this new program in which free counseling is offered by master students who are supervised by clinical counselors via video.
“It [suicide] is on the rise globally, and more people are coming forward in general,” Jenkins said. “These numbers are higher than what I have seen in the past. It seems like they are increasing.”
Jenkins says there are numerous reasons why overall mental health is on the rise, but points to social media as a big component.
“Everybody looks online, and they see how great everybody else is doing. Nobody posts their problems,” Jenkins said. “When we do a social comparison against other people, it seems like we’re failing pretty badly.”
Jenkins pointed to another possibility in parents, saying how the way we raise children is changing and that there are numbers to support that. According to Jenkins, social psychology tends to use the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI). Their numbers show that narcissism is steadily increasing and is at the highest it’s ever been.
“People are being told, ‘You are the most unique and wonderful person. We are trying to build their self-esteem,” Jenkins said. “We want people to have good self-esteem, but when we go too far, they feel like they’re the most important person. Then when they get to the real world and it’s all about expectations, they go into it feeling like they can walk through life like a breeze without a problem.”
Both O’Keefe and Jenkins say the best thing to do when you are feeling depressed or suicidal is to go to the Wellness Center. They also warned that in the case of having a friend who is depressed or suicidal, offering spiritual guidance can cause more problems.
“I think it is really important for friends to just be there to listen and support without any kind of advice,” Jenkins said. “Spiritual advice can sometimes make people feel more guilty.”
The Point reached out to the Wellness Center, but they declined to comment. Laurie Floren, Senior Clinician and Life Skills Coach on campus, did offer www.bestcolleges.com as a good resource for more information on suicide and how to find help and offer it to others.
O’Keefe also runs a D-group that meets Tuesdays in Flex 44H from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. for students looking for a lighter setting and a more open discussion on mental health. She admits she is not a professional and cannot diagnose any particular issue, but offers open-ended conversation and numerous connections to professional help.
“I used to think, ‘Everybody thinks about killing themselves, they just don’t do it. That’s just not the case’,” O’Keefe said. “If that is something that comes into your mind at all, it should be addressed.”
College suicide is something that affects people even in the most beautiful places. Suicide does not care about gender, sexual orientation, religious preferences and so on. It is silent, it goes unnoticed, and is steadily increasing on campus.