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By Becky Gordon
One in five adults in America experience the symptoms of mental illness every year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Over 44,000 adults in the U.S. die by committing suicide. While there is no single cause to attribute to suicide, mental illness is prevalent among those who either attempt or commit suicide.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention reports that suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 34 in Michigan.
Washtenaw County experienced a marked increase in suicides among those aged 15 to 24 in the last decade.
The beginning of October saw both the World Mental Health Day and Mental Illness Awareness Week. Increased awareness and acceptance of mental illnesses can help further efforts for suicide prevention.
Washtenaw Community College offers counseling for assistance not only with career advisement and academic concerns, but also with personal issues and crisis intervention. WCC currently has six full-time counselors on staff.
The American Psychiatric Association believes that recognizing warning signs and knowing about risk factors can reduce the number of suicides.
Many suicide prevention organizations, like the JED Foundation, or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, have compiled lists of potential risk factors that those who are considering suicide might exhibit.
Risk factors, especially for young adults, include talking about suicide, a feeling of hopelessness for the future, serious or chronic mental illness, sleep increases or decreases, and substance or alcohol abuse.
The list of risk factors for those suffering from suicidal thoughts is not exclusive, or wholly indicative that suicidal behavior will follow. These factors can increase a person’s likelihood of experiencing suicidal thoughts, and if recognized can lead to treatment and prevention.
Protective factors, those things in a person’s life that protect them from committing suicide, have yet to be as well researched as risk factors.
The first preventative step when faced with a person in danger of self-harm is a protective factor called “means restriction”, removing any possible lethal avenues a person may use to commit suicide.
Other protective factors are addressed following the passing of imminent danger to someone considering suicide. These factors address a person’s feeling of connectedness, seeking and offering community and familial support.
Access to effective clinical health care is critical to preventing suicide. WCC recently began offering a new service to reach out to students seeking help with mental health issues.
“Our CAP program offers additional mental health services that will complement the College’s face-to-face personal counseling services,” Liz Orbits, Dean of Support Services, said.
The College Campus Assistance Program which partners with Health Management Systems of America, and it provides 24/7 year-round clinical services to students in need.