Suicide a pervasive problem

Dec 172009
Authors: Robyn Scherer

Today is a very special day for many people in the world. No, it is not because it is Friday the 13th, or because Thanksgiving break is only a week away. It is because today is To Write Love On Her Arms Day.

This day is organized to help people suffering with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide, according to, the Web site dedicated to this movement.

According to the Web site, TWLOHA began in the spring of 2006 when a group of friends wanted to raise money for a friend in need. Their friend was struggling with depression and addiction, and needed help paying for treatment.

As the message spread, the response was phenomenal. The Web site states that in the past two and half years, it has responded to more than 80,000 messages from people in 40 countries.

“These are issues of humanity, problems of pain that affect millions of people around the world,” a passage on the site reads.

Depression is a real issue. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 14.8 million American adults suffer from major depressive disorder. This disorder is more common in women than in men.

Now, let’s look at the people in our own lives and at ourselves. Can you think of a time when you were depressed? You can feel depressed without being clinically diagnosed with it.

I know that I can think of one time. I was 4 when my parents started the divorce process. For the next nine years of my life, there was a custody battle. For several years, I went back and forth from house to house. In August of 2000, I moved to live with my mother, and that move is probably what saved my life.

Each of us faces that turning point — that one defining moment when things have the opportunity to change. I did not choose to take my moment, in fact, I ran away. Literally.

I was lucky though. I was forced to take that moment, and I will be forever grateful. Sometimes it is hard to see the opportunity and to take it. Sometimes it takes others to help us. That is what this day is about. It is about reminding others about how much they are cared for, and how much they matter. It is about hope. It is about recovery. It is about love.

In 2006, 33,300 people committed suicide, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Although that number does not seem like a huge one in our population, each of those people who took their own lives have family who still grieve for them.

I want you to think about people you have known who have committed suicide. Can you think of any? I know I can. I can think of several people I’ve known some who have taken their lives. The most recent was this last spring on this very campus.

It’s heartbreaking. It’s hard to understand why, and the grieving never ends for some people. You always wonder: What if? What if I had given that person 10 extra minutes? While you can’t blame yourself, sometimes it’s very hard not to.

Each and every one of us have people out there who care for us and who love us. You may not know it, and you may not see the impact you have on people. Life is tough. It really is. But there are several people out there who can help you, if you seek help.

It is estimated that two-thirds of people who suffer from depression never seek help, according to the TWLOHA Web site. Untreated depression is the leading cause of suicide. Depression is treatable, and life is too good to pass by.

Today is your chance to show those around you how much you love them. Write love on her arms, his arms and your own arms. Love is a powerful emotion, and you never know whose life you may save by letting them know you love them.

Virgil said it best. “Omnia vincit amor.” Love conquers all.

Robyn Scherer is a senior animal science, agricultural business and journalism and technical communication major. Her column appears Fridays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to

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