465 Boston College Students May Be at Risk

I entered with my usual echo, “I’m Home!” I expected the lights to be on and to hear my father talking to the TV. Instead, it was quiet and pitch black. The only exception was the light under my parents’ bedroom door. My mind raced through every possible situation, pondering just how much trouble I could possibly be in.

As I took the long walk down the dark corridor toward the bedroom, my heart was beating so fast that I could hear it in my ears. I knocked lightly and opened the door simultaneously. I was met with my mother’s blank expression, while my father’s eyes were glued to the computer with Anderson Cooper’s voice on CNN muffled in the background. My mother’s puffy, bloodshot, green eyes met my confused hazel ones. I instantly knew that this was not about me.

Before I could say a word, in a whisper, she said, “Alexa, Uncle Jack killed himself today.”

I suddenly felt out of breath. My legs became limp, my body numb.

This was my first of many experiences related to suicide. Before this, the only other time I heard about it is when a major celebrity had attempted or committed suicide—Britney Spears, Robin Williams among others.

Our four years in college are regarded as the most exciting years of our lives, filled with an abundance of amazing friends and memories. I had this in mind when stepping onto campus in August. Even though those experiences are true, so are the ones no one ever talks about or prepares us for, such as the amount of emotional and social stress, as well as academic turmoil, we endure, which lead some to suicide.

Going to a school like Boston College, I am constantly challenged in my classes and my rigorous course load, which is never light or easy. So when I read that one in five college students consider suicide because of the amount of stress we face, I wasn’t surprised.

But, in order to really understand “one in five,” we need to break it down. “One in five” equals 20 percent. Now let’s take 20 percent of our freshman class here at BC, which is 2,327 students. That’s 465 people in our freshman class that will consider suicide. Just one person should be enough for colleges to start taking this matter seriously.

College is stressful, students have newfound independence which can be overwhelming, leaving some of us emotionally numb, and emotionally dumb, giving people good reason to think we suffer from impaired judgment although we’re sober. Suicide is the second-most common cause of death among college students. The stress of a new environment can cause many of us to mask our true feelings, even to our parents. In a community like BC, however, which is proactive with requiring incoming freshmen to take online courses about BC Safety, Alcohol Education, Sexual Assault Prevention, and Diversity Edu, shouldn’t we also require courses for incoming freshmen on suicide prevention and awareness?

My question is with all the statistics around how at-risk college students are for suicide, why does no one really talk about it? It’s not like were little kids anymore and have to be shielded from the bad happening in the world around us. I’m 1,356 miles from home and am now making the transition into adulthood. So I would prefer to know what I’m up against. Not finding this out until now leaves me blindsided and exasperated because no one bothered to tell me something that affects a majority of my peers.

I want to make apparent that in no way am I calling out BC for not doing anything regarding the issue of suicide. I am well aware there are services on campus that help with stress and psychologists, but I still feel as if there is a stigma that surrounds suicide. It’s not like there aren’t options and professional groups to be on campus to help some at risk. Other colleges are aligned with professional educational groups like JED Campus, an organization that partners with colleges and universities through a collaborative process of customized support to build on student mental health, substance and suicide prevention efforts. Even our rival Boston University has partnered with them—it sucks to be us now.

Given all of the issues that take place on and off campus, suicide is barely visible to those of us immersed in the “daily grind,” but somehow it squeezes itself into our lives, presenting itself as a viable option to anyone who is emotionally wrecked. I have personally experienced the loss suicide brings. Just last year, two graduating seniors in my high school class took their own lives, never making it to graduation. Everyone who knew them was crushed and bewildered, asking haunting questions “did you know something was wrong, did you notice anything, did you see anything, did you hear anything?”  “Yes, yes, yes, and yes, but we never thought suicide was an option.”

Suicide not only takes a life but steals a part of innocence and joy from those who knew the victim leaving ultimately a bitter feeling. People say suicide is like a pebble rippling in a pond. My uncle’s suicide felt as if somebody had thrown a boulder into my pond—the large waves rippling outward, rocking and changing my world, making it more confusing and frustrated. The emotions I felt at that time and that are still with me is something no one should have to experience. It’s time for BC to step up and take initiative to be proactive, not reactive—someone’s life depends on it right now.