Thoughts of suicide continue to be a source of struggle for university students. According to a Spring 2013 survey by the American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, a total of 8.4 percent of students surveyed had seriously considered suicide, while 5.6 percent intentionally self-injured and 1.1 percent attempted suicide.
University of Alberta student Evan Tran was someone who was called “charmingly awkward” and “quirky,” older sister Angela told CBC News. While he had been diagnosed with depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder in his teens, Tran became truly notable at the University of Alberta because of his involvement in a variety of campus activities, and seemed to come into his own once he started university. However, by early last week, police had been called because there had not been any word from Evan, and by Tuesday, it was discovered that the young man had taken his own life.
Unfortunately, Evan was not the only student on campus to have completed suicide in the last year. According to University of Alberta officials, the young man’s death was the third “non-criminal” death on campus in the last year.
Global News reported in November, 2014, that suicide continues to be the “least talked about” health issue. Statistics Canada reports that 1 in 13 Canadians are affected by suicide, and it’s the only cause of death that is not caused by a malignancy or organ failure of some sort. With the exception of accidents, suicide is the one cause of death that is the result of a deliberate action.
The study done by the American College Health Association reported that fewer than half of all university students surveyed admitted to having good mental health. Other mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, were linked to academic struggles, dipping grades, and higher dropout rates, according to Metro News.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said in its first annual report on suicide that “effective measures can be taken, even just starting at local level and on a small-scale.” On a global scale, those with the highest rates of suicide are older than 70, but suicide continues to be the second leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 29 years of age.
Certainly, the link between suicide and mental health problems is indisputable, but there are multiple motivations behind a person’s decision to end their pain. Suicide can happen in a crisis, as people may find their ability to deal with feeling overwhelmed by life stress compromised, and these stresses may include financial issues, the breakdown of a relationship, or chronic pain.
One of the biggest challenges in suicide prevention and awareness is that there is still considerable stigma when it comes to discussing suicide, and according to WHO, it is that stigma which prevents many from coming forward and admitting they need help.
“The prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to a lack of awareness of suicide as a major public health problem and the taboo in many societies to openly discuss it,” the WHO‘s suicide fact sheet says.
Some may want to take a “head in the sand” approach when it comes to discussion of suicide, but Evan Tran’s sister wants to keep the conversation going about suicide.
“I have no issue to say my brother committed suicide,” said Vanlee Robblee to CBC News.
Roblee said that Evan felt a great deal of shame when it came to his diagnosis of depression, but she said she wanted to keep talking about mental health problems and suicide in order to eliminate that sense of embarrassment that some may feel.
“It’s not a shameful act. It’s not something to put under the carpet,” Roblee said of a person’s decision to complete suicide.
[Inset Image 1 courtesy of CBCNews.ca, Inset Image 2 by By Gourami Watcher (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons, Featured Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images]