Suicide Awareness month is a time to not only remember those we’ve lost, but to spread awareness about suicide prevention, depression, and mental health.
Hearing the words “Tom committed suicide last night” will never leave my ears. I was 11-years-old, sitting on my bed with my brother and sister, and the news shook my whole world. Eight years will have passed on Nov. 5 but I still think about him every day and will never be the same person without him.
Even though I would do anything to get my big brother back, I think the experience shaped me and made me a more thoughtful person. I became more aware of my friends and family, even the littlest changes in their demeanor or mood made me pay closer attention to them because I can’t fathom losing someone close to me again.
My dad, Joe Karlin, started the Tom Karlin Foundation just a couple months after my brother died. Not only to remember Tom and his story but to make sure no other family experienced the hell my family did. I joined the foundation because I wanted to make an impact on teenagers and help reduce the stigma around suicide.
The main problem with suicide is that we don’t talk about it enough. In recent years, suicide and mental health have become hot topics. However, there are still individuals suffering from depression who see suicide as their only option.
Many people don’t understand how their words or jokes can impact the friends and family of suicide victims. Phrases that have become very normalized are “kill yourself” or “kill myself”. These are my biggest trigger words and yet I constantly hear them from people around me. I was recently sitting in my college algebra class when a kid behind me joked about wanting to kill himself while talking about the stress of college. My head immediately went to my big brother and how he’s now dead. One minute I was learning about the quadratic formula and the next I wanted to cry. STOP JOKING ABOUT SUICIDE. It is not a funny joke and should be taken seriously. Additionally, if you hear someone joke about or mention suicide, they may be considering it and this is a warning sign. Talk to them and genuinely ask them how they are doing. If they say “fine”, they probably aren’t just fine, so sit down and try to connect with them.
Another sign of suicide is alcohol and drug abuse. Yes, this is college– people are going to drink and do drugs. However, if your friend who usually doesn’t drink is all of a sudden going out and binge drinking to the point of blacking out, that could be a sign that something is off in their life. You need to talk to them and encourage them to get help. It can be very intimidating to think about “fixing” your friend, but that is not your job. Your job is to encourage them to seek health and help connect them with mental health professionals and resources. While I was in high school I sent a survey asking who my classmates would go to first if they felt depressed or suicidal. To my surprise, counselors were at the very bottom and friends were at the top. Look out for your friends and be nice to everyone you meet because you have no idea what they are going through.
September is Suicide Awareness month, we want to give you all the resources we can, if you are feeling depressed or suicidal please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Take advantage of the four free sessions at Counseling Services in Lafene Health Center or schedule an appointment at the Family Counseling Center located in the Campus Creek Complex. If you are a survivor of abuse, the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education (CARE) Office has funding to support your future appointments. Their advocates are always available to talk with you in Holton Hall room 206. We leave you with this crucial reminder: check on your strong friends, check on your quiet friends, check on your happy friends, check on your past friends and check on each other.