Editorial: Continuing the mental health conversation

Last week, a deadly fire occurred at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. It was later revealed that the individual had acted intentionally.This time of year is known for such tragic acts. Spring is one season with some of the highest suicide rates, and April is one of the highest months, especially among young adults.

Suicide is currently the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds. This includes college students on campuses around the country.

Spring can bring sobering clarity as it gets warmer outside and responsibilities begin to pile up. We realize the school year is ending, and we begin to plan out a productive summer — and if you’re a graduating senior, planning out what happens next. It’s stressful and overwhelming. It can seem like no opportunities are available to us, but they happen along the way. For seniors who might not have anything “lined up” after graduation, don’t worry. We know you’ve heard this many times, but it’s true. You are smart and capable. Give yourself time to appreciate your accomplishment. 

College can be deeply isolating as seemingly everyone around us is having a great time. We are told, “College is the best four years of your life.” If it’s true for you, embrace and cherish it. But this time at the University does not need to be what defines the rest of our lives.

College is emotionally taxing, and sometimes it might feel like you are the only one struggling. But you’re not. You never are.

There are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year.

It is important to realize that no matter how alone you feel, there is always going to be someone willing to listen. Maybe it’s a friend from high school who you haven’t spoken to for some months, a professor whose class you enjoy or a professional resource through the University or an an independent practice.

We regularly encounter people who we may think we have no impact on, but we do. College can become a lonely and stress-driven experience, but this campus also wouldn’t be the same without you. Your family and friends, classmates and coworkers, professors and mentors are all cheering for you. They want you to succeed. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. One in 12 U.S. college students makes a suicide plan. It is gut-wrenching that so many halt their futures before they even get their toes wet, removing opportunities by subtracting themselves from the equation due to a flawed vision of the outcome.

This is not an easy subject to confront, but the reality is that suicides occur all over the country, and college students are no exception. Not talking about them won’t stop individuals from choosing to take their own lives away. While it may be too ambitious to dream of a world where suicide doesn’t exist all together, the least we can do is show compassion and hope for a changed reality.

Please seek help if you feel mentally unwell or are considering suicide by contacting the Counseling Center at (217) 333-704 or call (800) 272-8255 to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Know that while the future is uncertain, things won’t stay this way forever and change is never as far off as we believe it to be.