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Psychologists tells students about suicide

It is not a widely spoken occurrence, especially on college campuses. However, numbers show that universities such as Bowling Green should be more concerned when it comes to suicide and college-aged individuals.

In recognition of Suicide Prevention Week and Women’s Health Month, the Women’s Center presented Dr. Cathy Kocarek. As part of the center’s brown bag luncheon series, Kocarek spoke to a group on the subject of “College Women and Suicide.”

“Whenever I think about suicide, it hits me in a very different way,” said Kocarek, psychology resident and assistant director of the University’s counseling center.

She said that every week she meets with students who are concerned with the issue of suicide either pertaining to themselves or a family member.

According to the American Association of Suicidology, as of 2001, suicide was the third leading cause of death for individuals ages 15 to 24.

However, the University’s counseling center has not seen any completed acts of suicide within the past two years — three years ago there were two.

Though, Kocarek said, this is not an accurate reflection of the feeling on campus.

As of last fall, the center began keeping track of the issues brought to them relating to suicidality — anonymously. The results shown that 63 percent of women and 34 percent of men who visited the counseling center had symptoms of suicidology. Of those, over 20 percent (62 percent of which were women) had actually attempted suicide.

This number includes all students at the University, including graduates students.

Levels of suicidality, Kocarek said, vary. The first being “suicidal ideation.” Ideation means that the individual has had thoughts or feelings of suicide, but you would not know about the tendency if you were standing with them. As a friend or acquaintance, you just are not going to know, she noted.

The second level, is suicidal behavior, “an observable level of behavior. This carries the highest risk of suicide,” she said.

In a transparency used to describe suicide and its causes, Kocarek referenced Edwin Schneidman, a clinical psychologist and expert on loss and grief.

“Suicide is caused by psychache,” he wrote in a 1993 study. “Psychache refers to the hurt, anguish, soreness, aching, psychological pain in the psyche, the mind.”

“Everyone will experience some form of psychache,” Kocarek said. Though, at varying levels of intensity.

Factors relating to the risk of suicide or suicidal tendencies, also differ. Relationships seem to have the largest impact on the risk of suicide. When relationships are not going well that increases the risk, Kocarek said. And when they are going well, and they (the individual at risk) feel connected, that then can be a protective factor in times of stress.

Women are more likely to attempt suicide and men are more likely to succeed, said Heath Huber, community educator at the Women’s Center and member of Men Educating Men on the Prevention of Sexual Assault (MEMPSA).

“As far as a cry for help goes, women are socialized at accepting help more than men are,” he said.

This is why talking with a friend or family member that may or may not have symptoms of suicidality is important.

The counseling center suggests speaking with the individual in private and letting her know that you care and are concerned as ways to possibly prevent an attempt at suicide.

Other options listed include: directly asking “Are you thinking of killing yourself?;” trusting your inner voice; when in doubt, consult and acknowleding the fact that she/he has told you about his/her thoughts. If she talks, there is at least a small part of her that wants to live, Kocarek said.

(Resources)

* Counseling Center (372-2081)

* The Link Crisis – 24-hour line (352-1545)

* Student Health Services (372-2271)

* Wood County Hospital Emergency Line (354-8910)

*Counseling Center Web site www.bgsu.edu/offices/sa/counseling

* Ulifeline.org

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