Last week, the John Carroll University chapter of To Write Love on Her Arms produced a startling display, where 1,100 white flags were placed on the Main quad to represent the 1,100 college students who commit suicide on average every year.
We tend to contemplate a number such as 1,100 and think it is not much, especially when compared to the population of the United States, which was just under 319 million last year. But when 1,100 white flags are put in front of your face as you stroll to class, it’s easy—and rather unsteadying—to see how many that really is.
While I can say that I’ve never had the thought to commit suicide in college, I can definitely understand why people do.
I’ve been blessed with a great safety net, so to say, consisting of my wonderful parents, my boyfriend who has been consistently by my side these last few years, as well as several caring professors and friends. Not everyone has this. I can tell you, it would have been very, very hard, if not impossible, for me to get through my undergraduate years without the support system I’ve had.
I’ve also been able to keep my head above water academically, for the most part, but again, not everyone can. If someone struggles with a class, gets a low grade, their GPA will be lowered as a result and they may lose their financial backing. For many students, this could very feasibly seen as the end of the world.
This isn’t just exclusive to students struggling in their classes. Some seemingly successful students still struggle with feeling inadequate and feel the need to push themselves harder and harder. And sometimes, it’s still not enough.
There are even causes outside the realm of academics. Some students may feel as if the whole world is passing them by, as their peers are getting hired for post-grad jobs or are getting engaged, while they don’t feel as if their lives are moving forward in the slightest.
All of these—as well as countless other factors—contribute to the suicide rate among college students. This is clearly a problem that must be solved.
And if you are reading this column and thinking to yourself, “well maybe those people should just get over it,” congratulations: you and your massive lack of sensitivity are a huge part of the problem.
While I’ve never contemplated ending my life throughout my college career, that’s not to say I never struggle. I believe most students—myself included—would admit that their studies come before their mental health.
If I had a dollar for every time someone told me that I need to take more time for myself, that I don’t have enough fun or that I work too intensely, I would have quite a lump of cash.
The thing of it is, I know this. I know I am all work and essentially no play. I know I’m too intense. And believe me, I know I don’t take enough time to do things I enjoy doing. Honestly, though, there isn’t much choice for me. I know that many students feel the same.
For those of you who are struggling, I implore you to remember that, although some difficulties may seem permanent, they are not; this too shall pass. And for those of you who aren’t—be a friend, be a part of the support system that those around you may desperately need.