‘I’m not afraid to ask’ : UMKC to participate in Suicide Awareness Day

Elizabeth Golden

Sixteen percent of UMKC students have had suicidal thoughts. Of this percentage, only 40 percent sought help, according to Counseling Center research.

Those suffering from suicidal thoughts often question their importance and begin to withdraw from their surroundings, according to Dale Voigt-Catlin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker for UMKC.

“Usually students change their behaviors and try to get their affairs in order, such as give their pets away whenever they are considering taking their own life,” Voigt-Catlin said. “They’re thinking they need to get everything organized.”

Statistics show that not enough students holding suicidal thoughts are seeking help.  According to Voigt-Catlin, only 50 percent of students considering suicide seek  friends or family for life-saving help. But the majority of those close to the student already know something is wrong.

“Most friends or family notice a change in behavior,” Voigt-Catlin said.

“It’s always good to check out the situation for validity since there are some who use ‘I wish I was dead,’ in a jokingly way. I really wish people would stop doing that. In those situations, death is then played off in a light-hearted way. These situations should be taken extremely serious.”

Voigt-Catlin says students with depression or substance abuse problems have a greater tendency to experience suicidal thoughts.

“Substances take away inhibitions,” Voigt-Catlin said. “Most people don’t want to actually go ahead with it, but when adding alcohol or drugs into the mix, some may accidentally take their own life.”

A psychological study by The Oxford Journal reports nearly 40 percent of suicide victims die while intoxicated.

“I was in a really bad place in life,” one victim said. “I almost drank myself to death every night.”

The victim, who wished to remain anonymous, went through a terrible relationship after experiencing months of depression.

“I’ve always had a tendency towards washing away my sadness with drugs and alcohol, but I never really considered myself depressed until the day I metaphorically died,” he continued. “This girl practically tore my heart out and stomped on it. I felt like life no longer had a purpose.”

One drunken night, he grabbed a knife with intent to slit his wrists.

“I think I was too drunk to really know what I was doing since I completely missed the vein,” he said. “I just remember waking up the next morning, bleeding on the bathroom floor.”

His scars still remind him of this awful night.

Counseling Psychologist and Outreach Coordinator Rachel Pierce believes students experience a “sense of clarity” after surviving such attempts.

“After a person attempts suicide, they realize they really want to live and [are] glad their attempt failed,” Pierce said. “Sometimes this realization is immediate.”

Voigt-Catlin agrees.

“This reminds me of the study done on those who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived,” she said. “All survivors said they didn’t intend to die and their clarity was immediately restored.”

The anonymous source mentioned above also felt grateful to be alive after his incident.

“It took a while to feel normal afterwards, but I’ve completely turned around my life and I really am happier than ever,” he said.

Sept. 10 was the day set for UMKC’s participation in Suicide Awareness Day.Shirts reading, “I’m Not Afraid To Ask” can be purchased to help raise suicide awareness, and proceeds go toward suicide research.

Writing “Love” across one’s wrist is also a common way to show support. To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit organization that aims to restore hope in those struggling with depression and/or suicidal thoughts.

The counseling staff encourages students to go online and complete AskListenRefer training. The 20-minute program is meant to promote suicide awareness and reduce suicidal thinking. Complete the training at http://www.asklistenrefer.org/umkc.

If you or someone you know experiences suicidal thoughts, on-call counselors are available 24 hours each day. Call (816) 235-1635 during business hours. After hours, call (816) 235-1515 or Commcare Crisis/Suicide emergency hotline at (888) 279-8188 (24 hours a day), or stop by 4825 Troost Avenue, Suite 206.

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