By Bridget Duncan / Staff writer
If students are feeling suicidal they have several ways to seek help, Director of Student Life and Student Health Services Anita Gibbins said.
Students can speak to employees who will contact a mental health professional for an assessment; students can call the national suicide prevention hotline at (800) 794-2433 or go to the psychological services office in E208 at LAC or EE102 at PCC during business hours. Students can also call and leave a message for them at (562) 938-3987.
Misconceptions about depression exist in society and there is a belief that people should buck up, Gibbins said. “As a society, we need to get beyond that.”
Gibbins said the brain is a complicated mechanism with chemicals regulating moods, stress, bi-polar disease as well as other conditions.
Although sunshine, diet and exercise help us, “Sometimes we need more than that. We don’t have to be a therapist. We can all be a friend,” she said.
A question a friend or family member can ask someone who appears suicidal is, “Have you thought about hurting or killing yourself?” Gibbins said. “Asking the question does not make the person want to kill themselves.”
An anonymous mother, whose older daughter attends LBCC, said she had a “mental meltdown” after her younger daughter tried to kill herself for the second time.
Her daughter’s teacher read a book in class out loud about an autistic boy who wanted to kill himself while kids in the class yelled out that the boy should kill himself.
The daughter left the class, tied her backpack straps to a pole at school and tried to strangle herself, the mother said.
Although her daughter was laid back and relaxed at home, the mom said at school she was different. She was “trying to make a point” and her daughter’s attempt was a call for help for someone to listen to her.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSB) in its literature says between 25 and 50 percent of people who kill themselves had previously attempted suicide.
The Los Angeles Area Director for the foundation, Traute Winters, said, “There is help that you can get.” The foundation works with high-school kids through a program called “More Than Sad” and with Calif. State University students through an online assessment tool, Interactive Screening Program. They can be reached at (888) 333-2377.
Winters said it is important to talk about suicide, educate people and inform the media what is appropriate, otherwise suicide can be a “contagion,” which glamorizes suicide. “News organizations when they cover suicides can inadvertently inform vulnerable people to take their own lives,” Winters said.
Freeman Outlaw, 26, a culinary arts student at LBCC has a close friend who tried to kill herself. “For me it was confusing and scary,” Outlaw said. His friend was hospitalized and given anti-depressants. “We all get depressed, but we’re raised to suck it up.”
The foundation also holds Out of the Darkness Community Walks to raise awareness and money for suicide prevention. Their next walk will be Saturday, Oct. 25 at Santa Monica Third Street Promenade. To volunteer, people may call (424) 327-7101.