Suicide prevention needs a new approach

Stanford+University+goalkeeper+Katie+Meyer+died+by+suicide+March+2.+Her+mother%2C+Gina+Meyer%2C+said+on+NBC%E2%80%99s+%E2%80%98Today%E2%80%99+that+Katie+felt+a+%E2%80%98stress+to+be+perfect%E2%80%99+before+her+death.+%28Photo+By+Erin+Chang%2FStanford+Athletics%29

Stanford University goalkeeper Katie Meyer died by suicide March 2. Her mother, Gina Meyer, said on NBC’s ‘Today’ that Katie felt a ‘stress to be perfect’ before her death. (Photo By Erin Chang/Stanford Athletics)

Michael Sicoli, Editor-in-Chief

Suicide prevention isn’t working.

It’s nice to dedicate a month to it. It’s kind to send your thoughts and prayers. But when things never change, it’s tough to keep the same focus.

Stanford University woman’s soccer goalkeeper Katie Meyer, 22, died by suicide March 2. She was a few months from graduating college, and I can’t help but feel like I knew her.

I didn’t, but this culture of suicide and depression created in the depths of Americanism gave birth to a community struggling with its mental health that I feel a part of.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reported that there were an estimated 1.2 million suicide attempts in 2020. Consequently, the Suicide Prevention Hotline received 27% more calls in 2020 than it did in 2019, a sign that while more are reaching out, just as many, if not more, are suffering.

A lot of this can be attributed to a world-altering pandemic, but not all of it. My battle with depression predated COVID-19. I’m sick of writing about it. I’ve done this all before, I’ve pulled similar stats and I’ve made familiar points. So I’m going to try something new, something more personal.

I just can’t do it anymore

It’s something I’ve muttered more times than I can count. It goes across my skull like a TV news ticker, bright and present in anything I think of.

Things are going great, though, right? I’m editor-in-chief of this amazing organization filled with brilliant people. I’m at a school I love with roommates I care about. I have a healthy support group and a family that remains my biggest anchor to life. My life, born on Long Island, has not been that hard.

But something’s been broken for a while. I can’t describe it, but I trust others know the same. There’s something that is missing deep in my soul that feels irretrievable. No matter an accomplishment, no matter how great a day can go, it always feels so cold.

The heaviness can just feel too heavy. It’s always on my mind that suicide is most prevalent in middle-aged white males, accounting for almost 70% of suicides in the U.S., according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I constantly think, “If it doesn’t get me now, it will later. So what’s the point? How can I possibly fix this?”

Writing helps, but it also hurts. It serves as a coping mechanism, but it’s also a ruthless industry. If I succeed how I hope to, there will be hordes of online comments already telling me what my mind has been pushing for years. One day, my family won’t be there to tell me they love me. One day I might just go.

I’m 20 years old, and this is how I think. And I’m not alone.

 

I have nothing left to give

Feeling empty is all too common. A 2020 study by NORC at the University of Chicago found that just 14% of Americans are “very happy” with their lives.

So what are most people doing more than ever as middle-aged people? Working, of course. A long-standing gripe in the U.S. is the current economic system based around long workdays.

Journalists work on an on-call basis. There are many unappreciated hours for breaking news and coverage that runs longer than a 9-5.

This was my choice, my calling. I’m prepared to take it all on. But each hour adds another weight to my chest. I know every job has its unique stressors that make 40 hours feel like 80.

It’s all connected, too much to include in a single article. But we work to our deaths here and all people get are good-intentioned, yet trademark phrases like “I can’t believe this” and “I had no idea.”

If you’re hurting, please seek help

It’s the sendoff to every tweet, maybe with a link to a hotline or a source. Those places make a huge difference, offering a last line of defense, so to speak. But they should never be used as much as they are now.

It starts at home and with our educators. Schools of all levels generally don’t check in with students unless they self-report or exhibit clear signs that a teacher — who likely is also underpaid and is not suited to handle mental health — brings up with the student or administrators.

I learned the textbook definition of “depression.” I sure don’t remember it now, but teachers taught me about that and the different illicit drugs that can lead to it. Problem solved, right?

Self-worth comes from within and must matter more than outside sentiments or personal regret. Being happy with yourself is an unbelievable challenge, but that’s where the search begins.”

— Michael Sicoli, editor-in-chief

Therapy can help. Offloading any day-to-day issues as well as long-term concerns eases that shouldered weight. It’s incredibly rare to have unimpeded, open conversations.

However, even therapy has its drawbacks, namely accessibility. Many college students have the luxury of free, on-campus counseling services, but the average session costs $100-$200 each for everyone else, according to a 2019 study by SimplePractice. Some are covered by insurance, but that’s another luxury many Americans can’t afford.

Going to school to become a therapist takes tons of time and money, hence the exorbitant prices. Now you are talking about the student loan crisis led by overzealous millionaires seeking to gain an extra buck.

It’s a constant cycle that leaves Americans of all ages and demographics dead by their own hand. In fact, the AFSP reported that firearms accounted for almost 53% of American suicides in 2020. There are more layers than you can count — it’s never as simple as increasing awareness.

 

What’s left behind

Even though I feel empty and lifeless at times, I’m still here. I have friends and family to thank for that, but I want to share a quick sentiment with this community.

For the longest time, I kept myself going on the principle that I’d hurt others if I just gave up. I recently realized that this is an unsustainable mindset. Self-worth comes from within and must matter more than outside sentiments or personal regret. Being happy with yourself is an unbelievable challenge, but that’s where the search begins.

What you are feeling is unique to you, and I cannot relate to it. However, you must know you aren’t alone. I do not know you or your struggle, but I care for your well-being.

Consider it a fraternity. We have to care for each other because we cannot count on things to change. People will always be suffering, and millions have it much worse than I have.

Convey your thoughts to anyone you care about. It’s a step toward a better future mindset with a focus on your own mental health.

I wish I could’ve met Meyer. In a way, I feel like I let her down, and I don’t want that for anyone. All I can do is share a message I believe is worth announcing.

Focus on self-worth. Help others do the same. We only have each other, and sometimes that needs to be enough.