Columns Opinion

Do not shut up about suicide

Several weeks ago, the University of Houston suffered a tragedy — but not an unspeakable one —  when a student died by suicide at Agnes Arnold Hall.  

Suicide is not something to keep quiet about, like the University chooses to do. Of all the emails that I have received about robberies, attempted assaults, and alerts, this should have been sent in an email to all students. Instead, I did not find out about it until the Houston Chronicle found the strength to report on this tragedy.  

By remaining silent, UH chose to not provide common sense tools for students to recognize the signs of suicide. Suicide has been described as the most unthinkable act and a silent killer, but those adjectives only serve to deter suicide by shame.

Suicide is not a shameful act but a response by a vulnerable person that can be prevented.

The most important thing to remember is that you are not a trained psychiatrist or counselor, so don’t act like one. Just be there, and remember that if you are going to ace anything this year, A.C.E. — ask, care and escort — being a friend.

Ask your friend, classmate or colleague what is going on in their lives, and listen to them. If you suspect someone of depression or thinking about suicide, do not remain quiet and hope it goes away. Suicidal thoughts are a byproduct of a serious psychological condition.

Care enough about them to listen and remove harmful objects from their homes. Care enough to remain calm, and do not force them into anything they are not ready for. Throwing your buddy across your shoulder and taking him to the police is not a recipe for success. You can’t solve the problem on your own, so you need to persuade them to seek help.  

Escort them to an emergency room, Counseling and Psychological Services, the UH Police Department, the Houston Police Department, the UH Health Center Psychiatry Clinic or to your dorm’s resident assistant. The bottom line: Do not just tell them to get help. Take them yourself and ensure they are in competent hands before you leave.  

This leads me to the resources on campus, such as CAPS, that offer licensed social workers and counselors. 

If you suffer from long-term depression, then make an appointment at the Recreation and Wellness Center to see a psychiatrist. The visit is covered by your University insurance, and if needed, the doctor can prescribe you medication that might save your life. Being diagnosed also opens up benefits through the Center for Students with DisABILITIES.  

CSD can assist you by approving accommodations that you might require while on campus. It’s been invaluable to me because I require the use of a service dog, and by their hard work, I was able to keep him in Calhoun Lofts with me. Without that accommodation, I wouldn’t be here and would never have been able to go back to school.  

If it is stress that you are suffering from, I urge you to go to the Wellness Center on Thursdays at noon for their mindfulness meditation. I cannot guarantee an hour of quiet contemplation will relieve that stress, but taking control of your mind is an excellent first step.  

Finally, see if any of the group fitness classes at the Recreation Center fit into your schedule.

Besides high-octane classes that come with an exercise high, they also offer stress-relieving classes like yoga, Pilates and meditation. Exercise is not a cure-all for stress, but it can help to regulate emotions and clear the mind.

Above all, remember the acronym A.C.E., and do not choose to remain silent.

Cari Netemeyer is a creative writing senior. She can be reached at [email protected].

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