By Emma Nortje
According to the National College Health Assessment done in spring 2015, over 480 students of Georgia College seriously contemplated suicide and over 125 actually attempted to take their life.
“I think that one of the big reasons [for the statistic] is because there are a lot of folks out there who are depressed… and so somebody who is struggling with a major depressive disorder, or with very severe anxiety, or just even with really, really severe levels of stress might think about suicide,” said counselor Cathy Rojas.
In the same survey, 88.3 percent of students reported having felt overwhelmed by all they had to do within the last 12 months. 46.2 percent of students reported academics as being very difficult to handle within the last 12 months. Other sources of stress included finances, relationships both intimate and social, family problems, and career-related issues.
“I really like to point out to people that… a typical freshman in college overnight has to move away from home, more away from family, move away from friends, possibly move away from a significant other, possibly break up with a significant other, possibly gain a significant other… change eating habits, sleeping habits, lose a job, gain a job, change your financial status,” said Rojas. “If I had to do that as an adult and do all those changes overnight I would probably have a nervous breakdown.”
On top of going through major life changes outside of college, students are expected to keep track of and keep up with four plus classes a semester.
“I think that one of the big reasons [for the statistic] is because there are a lot of folks out there who are depressed.”
“I understand that it’s college and they’re trying to prepare us for the world but none of us are going to have six jobs at one time. That’s what each class is,” said Claire.
For other students, like Maddie, the combined stress of balancing school and life outside school is what drives them to depression, thus leading to thoughts of and an eventual attempt of suicide.
“It was the ex-boyfriend who was relatively abusive for six months sleeping with me while I was unconscious and then finals week was coming up and I hadn’t slept in six days because I was trying to study a lot while taking care of myself which wasn’t working out,” said Maddie. “I was trying to deal with the anxiety of what happened with him at the same time as cramming for finals week because finals aren’t something you can postpone.”
According to the NCHA, 80 percent of students like Maddie who attempted suicide did not seek help from Counseling Services or any other outside source.
“The simplest reason is just some variation on stigma,” said director of Counseling Services Steve Wilson. “People are ashamed to admit that they are struggling. People don’t recognize that others have similar struggles… and then on top of that… mental illness gets treated as some character flaw as opposed to an illness.”
Maddie and Claire also explained that getting an appointment with and going to appointments at Counseling Services is often difficult and inconvenient.
“There’s a waiting list of like two weeks and so if you want something to be dealt with now then you have to sit with it for two weeks and by the time that they’re able to help it’s generally over and you don’t really need help anymore,” said Maddie.
However in light of the statistic, Rojas encourages students who may have had a bad experience with Counseling Services to go and talk to them and not be so quick to give up. And for those who have yet to seek any help for their depression or suicidal thoughts or attempts, Wilson encourages them to make an appointment.
“We are available. Counseling services sees students free of charge… Our services are confidential so we don’t disclose information from counseling to anybody, even that someone is attending counseling,” said Wilson. “So I’d encourage them to seek help. Don’t be alone.”