Suicide rates increase nationwide: Let’s ask why

Category:  Opinions
Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 at 4:42 PM

According to a study published by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide rates have risen in almost every state and in every age bracket since 1999. Save for Nevada, whose rate has decreased by 1 percent, every state is dealing with an increased suicide rate, which is the 10th leading cause of death in the country as a whole.

Why are more and more Americans succumbing to suicide? The answers, as most things, tend to vary depending on age, life, income and additional factors.

Because of this, I shouldn’t generalize the experiences of every American, or even every Pennsylvanian, into a few different statements. Every person’s experience with suicide and the reasons behind this act are different. However, we as students experience many of the same stressful situations that could lead towards poor mental health and suicidal ideation. While not all students are affected by these reasons, nor do all students commit suicide because of these reasons, they are important to talk about and discuss, so that we may help those suffering around us.

Money: Students need large quantities of money to do pretty much anything, but we don’t have said money. Because of inflation, the cost of living has risen dramatically, but wages have not followed suit. The minimum wage in Pennsylvania is still at $7.25, which at 40 hours a week can earn a person $290. One textbook might come in and take $210, while then gas takes $40, which leaves a student with $40 to put towards loans, rent, bills, food, and other miscellaneous costs.

Maybe students decide to work two or three low-wage jobs on top of school to be able to make ends meet, which leads to exhaustion and less time for themselves. But the profit earned still doesn’t even out to all the labor put in. It’s a vicious cycle of putting in everything and getting nothing in return. There is a hopelessness to the cycle, as well, because it is almost completely inescapable. Maybe parents or guardians can’t help financially, or maybe they can only help a little. There is no means to break the cycle for the average student because that also requires money.

Overworking: “You can sleep when you’re dead,” or “say goodbye to sleep” are popular phrases used by both professors and students alike. Students, living on caffeine, brag about their small flirtations with sleep, citing intense course loads and too little hours in the day, causing their sleepless nights. Professors, perhaps harmlessly and in jest, write in the syllabus that students should expect not to sleep because of their classes, or joke about the impossibility of passing their classes. Sleep, however, is not something to be taken lightly. Lack of sleep, on top of increased stress levels, is an extremely dangerous concoction. Brain functions are impeded by lack of sleep, and stress cannot be processed in a healthy way. Students are again trapped in a vicious cycle. You must stay up over and over, night after night, because otherwise you fail.

The World Outside of Campus: The world is a tense and scary place right now. Everyday there is another cataclysmic event, whether it be a shooting, or a natural disaster, or a human rights violation. The barrage is constant and there is no escape from it. You can’t stick your head in the sand and pretend the world isn’t burning when you’re the one on fire.

But the worst of it all? There’s nothing you can do about it, nothing concrete to do about the steady, terrifying decline of the world. There are activist groups and protests, calling parties and picket signs, but those things can only do so much, and sometimes the fight is too long and too arduous to complete. Again, students are trapped in a vicious circle of forces outside of their control demanding they prove person-hood or destroying their feelings of safety.

While there are many more causes for suicide, like a poor mental health system, broken healthcare and the stigma around suicide, these causes present a unique and dire commonality: total lack of control. This lack of control and the feelings of helplessness attached to it make life seem dull, devoid of choice and cookie-cutter. Perhaps more and more students are having suicidal ideation because the life that is presented to them is simply not enough to equate all the sacrifice that it demands.

The world is a hard place to live in, and sometimes it can feel like everything is crashing down all the time. There is goodness here however, and lots of it. You deserve to be here to experience it. The National Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255 and it is open all day, every day. The university Student Health and Wellness Center, meanwhile, provides 10 free therapy appointments for current students every semester, and can provide an emergency crisis counselor if asked.

Virginia Olds can be reached at

Tags: opinions

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