Learning to listen: a discussion on suicide

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Photo by Peter Burleigh

I was disappointed when I did not see any observance of September as Mental Health Awareness Month from the University of Dallas community.

As intelligent students who enjoy pursuing truth and defending life, we ought to converse about mental health and the tragedy of suicide.

After witnessing the consequences caused by the stigma around depression and other mental health concerns, I intend to encourage this discussion.

I have not suffered from depression or suicidal tendencies and therefore I do not assume I understand what those struggles are like.

Two of my loved ones gave permission for me to share their experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts.

After hearing their stories, I recognize depression as a sense of overwhelming dread at life. In their testimonies, my loved ones described an intense feeling of isolation and a desire to disappear.

One of them engaged in self-harm for over four years, unbeknownst to her family. The other individual desperately requested aid one night as he contemplated suicide, only to receive an unsympathetic response which drove him into an apathetic state.

While every individual’s recovery from depression is unique, both of them expressed similar attributes which enabled them to reorient their lives.

The person who engaged in self-harm was seeking to make her mental pain real. As part of her recovery from this destructive behavior, she started exercising to release her stress in a positive way. 

The other individual who was moved to apathy discovered a small community that was responsive and willing to talk about his depression and recovery process. After a brief time in counseling, he decided to claim ownership over his own thoughts and feelings. With the support of friends, he seeks to live a life discerning his own mind rather than allowing it to overwhelm him in one suicidal act.

I share these testimonies, disturbing as they are because I was unaware of the mental health struggles my loved ones endured until years later. 

Maybe I did not listen or see the signs, or maybe my loved ones did not reach out to me. No matter the case, my ignorance was due to the same stigma which keeps UD students quiet about their mental health struggles.

Perhaps it is my own guilt, but I am painfully aware that had their circumstances and mindsets not changed, I may have lost a brother and a sister.

Due to my own awareness, I find the silence which surrounds mental health at UD to be deafening.

Both in the Catholic tradition and the founding document of the United States, life is perceived as a gift bestowed on us by God.

For the people who cannot embrace the value of their own lives, they need a compassionate community to listen to them.

Before accepting help, they need acknowledgment of their struggles. 

Even as a typical, quiet student in the classroom, I ask UD students to speak up on these subjects. I ask UD students to enter into hard discussions about the confusing and painful intricacies of the mind with each other.

I am still learning to listen to these uncomfortable conversations on depression and similar struggles.

I do not intend to listen as licensed therapists or counselors do, nor are ordinary people meant to do so. 

Counselors have authority when speaking about mental health concerns because they offer effective treatments based on psychological studies designed to improve each individual person’s experience.

I am not pursuing a degree in psychology, but I am able to bear my own vulnerability to be a friend and accompany another person through his suffering no matter the form: physical, spiritual or mental.

Although these conversations will be difficult, we must have them so we can foster a community that enriches lives.

Students dealing with depression or other mental health challenges can reach out to the UD Counseling Center in upstairs Haggar @ 972-721-4045 or counseling@udallas.edu

If you are concerned about another student, but it is not an emergency, you can email care@udallas.edu.

In any immediate emergency, call campus safety at 972-721-5911.

3 COMMENTS

  1. You should have included to call 911 and/or the Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255. UDPD is not the end all be all. This school needs to remember that 911 exists and they are capable of finding buildings though both the internet and verbal directions – they aren’t idiots. 911 operators are better trained for certain situations since they dispatch paramedics, police, and the fire department.

    • Students are instructed to call UDPD (formerly campus safety) first in the case of any emergency on campus. They are trained police officers on campus with radio dispatch connection to the Irving PD. They readily collaborate with Irving city police and other emergency services to quickly respond to serious incidents. I provided resources made to help UD students in particular. The Suicide Hotline is easily accessible. I chose not to include it because I’ve heard criticisms of its effectiveness in aiding people in crisis.

      • It literally makes no sense to call UDPD first. 911 is just three easy digits, and it’s what UDPD has to contact anyway. So just cut out the middleman and keep it quicker.

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