Tuesday, November 30, 2021
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College-aged Suicide

A Brigham Young University study estimates approximately three percent of all college students attempt suicide.

The numberat UMKC, according to the Counseling Center’s Clinical Social Worker and Alcohol and Drug Prevention Program Coordinator Dr. Dale Catlin-Voigt, is closer to one percent. In other words, about 160 students at UMKC attempt or plan to commit suicide each year.

According to nonprofit organization www.suicide.org, suicide attempts are at an all-time high for Americans.

Suicide is defined by Princeton University as the intentional taking of one’s own life. Suicide attempts and assists are illegal under state and common law in the United States.

Repercussions for an attempt often include a small fine, mandatory emergency room visit and 96-hour hold.

The 96-hour hold allows a judge to mandate a person be held up to four days in a hospital psychiatric inpatient ward.

This enables doctors and psychiatrists to evaluate and try to begin treatment for the patient who has attempted suicide.

It also ensures the patient receives care for any harm from the suicide attempt method, reports www.suicide.org.

The patient’s stay may include group therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), pharmacological therapy or other kinds of treatment. The stay also gives patients a safe place to stay while they prepare and plan for outpatient treatment.

According to Catlin-Voigt, a number of underlying problems often precede a suicide attempt.

The problems include major depression, substance abuse, family violence (abuse), previous incarceration, exposure to suicidal behavior in others and prior suicide attempts, said Associate Professor Dr. Melisa Rempfer of the UMKC Department of Psychology.

Co-morbidity, or the presence of multiple risk factors, increases the risk of suicide.

However, prevention work and treatment seek to ameliorate problems leading to risks.

“[CBT], talk therapy and medications have been shown effective,” Rempfer said.

Suicidal Ideations (SI)

According to the Missouri Center for Safe Schools, most people considering suicide, or entertaining thoughts of suicide known as suicidal ideations (SI), give clear signs of their thoughts before the attempt.

Suicidal persons with plans for carrying out their intentions give clearer signs.

A pamphlet from the UMKC Counseling Center said that those with suicide plans are likely to say goodbye either in advance or immediately before the attempt.

Often, suicide attempts and risk factors signify an underlying mental disorder, like Bipolar Affective Disorder or Unipolar Depression.

According to The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), an estimated 95 percent of people who attempt suicide have an underlying mental illness.

“Co-morbidity between mental illness and substance abuse greatly increases suicide risk,” Rempfer said.

Depression

NIMH describes a number of symptoms of depression which left untreated, greatly increase the risk of suicide.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), from which the government website on mental health garnered its symptom list, requires either a minimum duration of symptoms for four weeks or hospitalization for symptoms to diagnose depression.

According to “Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament,” a book by Kay Jamison Redfield, episodes of SI become more dangerous the more symptoms and severity of symptoms a person suffers.

A lack of diagnosis also correlates with a higher suicide risk, Redfield said.

Manic Depressive Disorder

Aside from depression, Manic Depressive affective Disorder (bipolar) patients have the highest risk of suicide.

“An estimated 20 percent of those diagnosed with bipolar die by suicide,” Redfield said.

Because bipolar is still largely misunderstood by the public, many people with the illness go undiagnosed for months or years after the disease affects them because they don’t know the symptoms.

Bipolar disorder consists of episodes of mania and depression.

When both occur at once, it is considered a mixed episode.

A depressive episode consists of the same symptoms as unipolar depression in varying severities.

The mania and depression of bipolar occur in cycles.

Cyclothymia is the mildest form of manic depressive illness, with cycles of varying length.

Bipolar II features mild-to-moderate symptoms and often, moderate-length episodes. Bipolar I affects patients severely.

According to Redfield, rapid-cycle bipolar I is the most difficult type to manage. It is as severe as bipolar I but cycles in episodes even hours short, evading the DSM-IV typical duration criteria. It can create a kind of emotional whiplash.

Bipolar is about 18 times more common in writers, musicians and other artists than the general public.

“Many artists are diagnosed retrospectively through their creative output,” Redfield said.

The website for the counseling center, www.umkc.edu/counselingcenter offers, anonymous evaluations for mental disorders, including depression and bipolar.

It also offers free evaluations over the phone.

Seeking Help

“By virtue of being UMKC students, [the students] have access to resources,” Rempfer said.

If a UMKC student feels they may have a mental disorder or need help with suicidal thoughts or other problems, the Counseling Center is located at 4825 Troost Ave. and offers students help. Initial evaluations and eight subsequent visits to counselors are free, Catlin-Voigt said.

After that, each hour-long visit costs $15.

“This is about $85 cheaper than other nearby counselors like the Ketterman Group. Students shouldn’t feel badly about asking for help,” Catlin-Voigt said.

Counseling is confidential and private.

If a friend is struggling with thoughts of suicide, a Counseling Center pamphlet said, it’s important not to judge but to help.

“Your peers are at risk for suicide, [too],” Rempfer said.

“Suicide is most common in the elderly and in youth about college age,” Rempfer said. Encourage a friend in need to seek help. Respect their confidentiality but involve a professional. For signs and symptoms of the diseases listed in this article, visit www.unews.com.

jschleiden@unews.com

Western Missouri Helpline:

1-888-279-8188

General:

1-800-SUICIDE

1-800-273-TALK

At UMKC:

816-235-1635 (Counseling Center)

816-235-1515(CampusPolice)

911 (For emergencies)

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