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Students, CPS talk National Suicide Prevention Month

Kayla Gauze is no stranger to suicide. 

Her dad died by suicide when she was 16, and a good friend of hers died by suicide in high school. Ever since, she’s been passionate about suicide prevention and stopping the stigma attached to mental illness. 

“I always complain about how suicide isn't covered enough, and it really irritates me — especially now with (COVID-19),” Gauze, a junior studying early childhood education, said. “I feel like nobody talks about the fact that the suicide rates are going up too…I feel like it's better to say something and be vocal about it than to stay quiet.”

More than 30% of adults in the U.S. are “now reporting symptoms consistent with an anxiety and/or depressive disorder” because of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic slump, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll. In Ohio alone, the average weekly data for June 2020 said “34.7% of adults in Ohio reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, compared to 36.5% of adults in the U.S.”

Gauze’s father tried to take his own life numerous times before actually dying, so she described growing up as really tough, knowingly having to deal with that.

“It was really hard for me because my dad and (I) did not have a good relationship… the whole time that I did have him in my life, it wasn't really like he was in my life,” Gauze said. “And I was supposed to go see him for the first time in six months on his birthday, and he killed himself the day before his birthday. So, it was really hard for me because it didn't feel like I ever got closure, and it was just very strange.”

Gauze has been to multiple different counselors in order to cope with the loss. She developed a closer relationship with her mom, which in turn has helped them process it together. 

“Honestly, it's kind of­ – as f----d up as it sounds – it’s kind of a relief because I knew that he was not happy when he was here, so I feel like there's a better chance of him being at peace now than there ever was of him when he was alive,” Gauze said. “It's really sad, and it's really shitty, but in a way, it almost feels like he's in a better place and it feels better that he's there, if that makes sense.”

Paul Castelino, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) at Ohio University, said in an email that “suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for young adults, ages 15 to 24. 80% of college students who die by suicide are unknown to campus mental health professionals. 90% of people who die by suicide are struggling with mental health issues that can be treated by a mental health professional.”

In Ohio alone, suicide is the 11th  leading cause of death and the 2nd leading cause of death for ages 10 to 34. On average, one person died by suicide every five hours, according to the American foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Because this is such a sensitive issue, Gauze wants people to be mindful of the language concerning suicide.

“I guess, for me, ‘committed’ says that they're committing a crime,” Gauze said. “A part of me feels like it is a crime because (of) how much damage it does to the people around them, but…they're doing that because they're hurting so much that they just don't know how else to handle it.”

Castelino agrees that there’s a significant importance on not using stigmatizing language.

“It is important not to use stigmatizing language – such as ‘committed suicide’ that convey the message of suicide as a success or as something like a crime. For example, we do not say someone committed heart attack. Instead, we should use ‘died by suicide’,” Castelino said in an email.

Gauze and Castelino aren’t the only ones who feel passionate about suicide prevention.

“Suicide Prevention Month has helped decrease the stigma around mental health, making conversations easier and resources more widely available,” Julia Schneider, a senior studying history, said in a message. “Suicide Prevention Month has helped teach me that it is not shameful to ask for help and that I am not alone. Talking to other people about your struggles does not make you a burden; rather, it helps others understand what you are thinking and going through.”

Gauze feels that suicide should be something that’s talked about and dealt with in a much more tactful way because there could be deep-seated trauma. She thinks the language is important, because if society talks about it in a way that makes people comfortable to come forward, more preventative measures can be taken. 

For those considering suicide or having suicidal ideations, she encourages them to get help. 

“I am not a trained therapist, and I am aware that it is not my job, nor is it my ability to help or fix people in that situation,” Gauze said. “I definitely tried for a very long time with my dad and that puts a big toll on you to try to fix somebody. There are so many different resources out there and they're not well known because it is something that’s stigmatized.”

At Ohio University, CPS is doing their part to help stop the stigma. They have updated their Twitter banner to reflect September being National Suicide Prevention Month and tweeted on World Suicide Prevention Day, which was Sept. 10. Castelino encourages students to visit CPS’s website for more information regarding suicide and mental illness. 



Gauze wishes the stereotype that people who die by suicide or are living with depression are selfish and want attention would stop. 

“I feel like if somebody is genuinely suicidal and depressed, they don't want anybody to know, and they'll go to great lengths to hide how miserable and upset they are,” Gauze said. “A big part of why so many people kill themselves is because they feel like they are a bother, they don't want to bother anybody, so they definitely don't want attention out of it. I feel like it's the complete opposite.”

She also wishes people would stop associating suicide with laziness or not working hard enough.

“They have nothing else that they can think of and a lot of the time, there are lots of other options, but they just can't see them because of the mindset that they're in and the mental illness that they have,” Gauze said. “It's definitely just something that shouldn't be stigmatized in that way. They're not lazy, they're not not trying hard enough. They genuinely are just mentally ill and need help.”

If you’re feeling suicidal, please talk to somebody. You can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860; or the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386. Text “START” to Crisis Text Line at 741-741, or in Ohio, text “4HOPE”. If you don’t like the phone, consider using the Lifeline Crisis Chat at www.crisischat.org.

@eringardner_

eg245916@ohio.edu

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