The second leading cause of death among college students isn’t from accidents, alcohol or illness, but actually self-inflicted death, said Donna Neer, president of Students for Suicide Awareness and Prevention (SSAP).
“I believe SSAP addresses a need that has been overlooked,” said Neer, a junior English and zoology double major. “A lot of other issues are addressed, like alcohol, but no one is specifically addressing (suicide) in a direct way for students.”
Neer started SSAP this semester to educate and help prevent suicide among CSU students.
“Our goal is to educate ourselves and others on what we can do as individuals and collectively to prevent the phenomenon of suicide,” she said. “We want to sort out the issues.”
SSAP Vice President Aya Ushijima, senior zoology major, joined the club to enhance her own and others education on the topic.
“I didn’t know how to react or what to do when my sister and friend were dealing with these issues,” she said. “I wanted to learn how to deal with it. I wanted to learn more to help them out.”
Silvia Canetto, psychology professor and faculty adviser for the club, spent 20 years as a clinical psychologist and is an expert on the subject.
“I’m here to provide general support and expertise when necessary,” she said. “The group will provide educational and support services. It provides a forum for discussion on the topic.”
The club is not necessarily for those who are suicidal but anyone who knows someone who may be, has an academic interest or may just want to be more educated on the topic.
“It is for students who want to learn and understand more,” Canetto said.
The club, which Neer estimates has 10 members, meets every other week in the Clark Building. She said she hopes to get a regular room soon, but as of now, the meeting location varies.
During meetings Neer said members have open discussions about suicide and related topics. In the past they discussed the definition of suicide in order to give members a better understanding. She plans on having guest speakers in the future, possibly including Canetto, who will speak on the relationship between gender and suicide.
“The discussions allow us to think about things we don’t usually get to talk about,” Neer said. “Suicide is a somewhat untouchable subject in our culture.”
“We don’t really talk about (suicide),” she said. “It makes a lot of people uncomfortable, but it happens and it’s important for people to be aware of that.”
Students should know, Neer said, that suicide occurs more often than people realize; it is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 and 90 percent of those who successfully complete a suicide have a diagnosable psychiatric illness.
“A lot of the issues that surround suicide are interrelated, like eating disorders and depression,” she said. “The topic of suicide touches on everything else.”
Margaret Canty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students who are interested in joining SSAP should e-mail the club at email@example.com for the time and location of the next meeting, yet to be announced.