Editorial: We really do need to talk

By The Beacon | April 27, 2015 2:07pm

Last week we published an opinion in which two students reflected on the need for more transparency about the realities of mental health, depression and suicide. With the recent alleged suicides of UP community members, it’s become apparent that we cannot sit back and let this conversation fade away.

Given that suicide is the second leading cause of death in college-age students, and depression is present in at least 50 percent of all suicides, talking about suicide and depression should be incredibly important to UP.

As a community we need to create safe and open spaces for people to talk about depression and suicide.

We need to ask the University for institutional support. We have a lot of great support from Campus Ministry and the Health Center. They’re doing so much, and we need to keep it up. We need campuswide programs that educate students about warning signs, how to help their friends/peers and how to help themselves after a loss. We need funding for these programs. We need administrators and staff committed to engaging this topic in a compassionate but straightforward way.

We need to ask experts for educational support and we need to educate ourselves. We need to work with and through these organizations to continually bring new information and insight to the ongoing conversation about depression and suicide.

We need to ask all students for social support. We need to create a network of our peers in which someone can find safety and support during times of struggle. We need to be willing to engage with the inherently personal and extremely sensitive topic - and we need to be willing to do so in a mature, respectful, honest way.

We need to be aware of the realities of mental health. We need to be aware that there is probably someone we know who is struggling (or has struggled) with depression or suicidal thoughts. We cannot afford to be callous to the humanity in every person we interact with. We must be aware that our words and actions towards others have profound power, and we need to use that power for good.

We need to be a compassionate community, unafraid of talking about depression and suicide.

We really do need to talk.

If you or someone you know if experiencing suicidal thoughts...

UP Resources:  Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

University Health Center: 503-943-7134

Residence Life Staff: 503-943-7205

Campus Ministry: 503-943-7131


24-hour Resources:

Campus Public Safety: 503-943-7161 (non-emergency), 503-943-4444 (emergency)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

LGBTQ Helpline (The Trevor Project) 1-866-488-7386

SAMHSA Drug & Alcohol Helpline 1-800-662-4357

Multnomah County Crisis Line: 503-988-4888


Warning signs of suicide:

An event - usually an event involving loss

Intense emotional states combined with depression - such as guilt, hopelessness, feeling abandoned, rage, revenge or anxiety;

Changes in behavior - withdrawing, isolation, making statements as if saying goodbye, joking about suicide;

Actions -  giving personal possessions, writing goodbye letters;

Problems with everyday activities - trouble going to class, going to work, meeting socially with others, or doing basic tasks to take care of themselves, increase use of alcohol/drugs or other self-destructive/risky behavior.

(warning signs courtesy of UC Berkley)