University of Indianapolis students and faculty came together on Sept. 19 in UIndy Hall A to discuss the stigma of mental health issues, depression and suicide. The event was hosted by Campus Program Board, and cruise ship comedian and public speaker Frank King, who has dealt with mental illness himself, spoke.
He now devotes his work life to educating people about the prevalence of suicide in the United States and what can be done to help those suffering from a mental illness.
King participates in TED Talks, which are presentations at the Technology, Entertainment and Design conference or satellite events around the world that spread ideas.
When researching a topic to speak about for a TED Talk, King noticed only three presentations had been given about mental health issues including depression and suicide. Someone who personally experienced thoughts of suicide, King knew what he planned to speak about.
According to King, the estimated number of college students who attempt suicide is 24,000 each year. Of that 24,000, only 1,100 college students die.
“I think the reason those 1,100 people die is because no one talks about depression or suicide,” King said. “39,000 people overall die by suicide each year, and more people die from self harm than that of homicide, natural disasters and war. I find it amazing that no one is talking about it. It can all be prevented by starting a conversation.”
According to King, the individuals that who most commonly contemplate suicide are African Americans, Latinos, LGBTQ community members—especially those who identify as transgender—agriculturalists and those involved in the medical field, such as doctors, nurses and, most commonly, veterinarians. According to King, people in the medical field contemplate suicide more frequently than others because they have both the knowledge and the tools to successfully follow through with it.
According to King and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention brochure that was handed out, several ways exist for people to prevent others from committing suicide, including peer counseling, group therapy and additional professional and psychiatric help.
“Nearly 75 percent of individuals that contemplate suicide give some warning of their intentions,” King said. “The best way for preventing a friend or loved one from committing suicide is to know the signs and dos and don’ts.”
King talked about the proper way to handle situations in which someone is experiencing depression and thoughts of suicide. King also recommended that showing the person experiencing distress some empathy can really make a difference.
“It should always be taken seriously. If you notice signs of someone in distress, find time to sit down with them privately and listen,” King said. “It is important to not give them your opinions or tell them what they should do. It is important to set aside your own beliefs in order to help them.”
King spoke about how important asking difficult questions is, especially if the person has shown signs of major distress, such as bringing up death in simple conversations or expressing detailed plans for how he or she will follow through with the suicide. According to King, in most cases, individuals who notice signs and symptoms of mental illness in their friends or loved ones find it difficult to get involved because they are unsure of what to say.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions,” King said. “If they come to you expressing that they are depressed, it is important to ask if they are having thoughts of suicide.”
Senior psychology and physical therapy major Kristen Maroney’s role in CPB is to seek out and plan events on campus. As a psychology major, she wants to emphasize on mental health issues and current events when planning future events.
Both King and Maroney said that resources are available for students, and for their friends and family as well, including suicide prevention hotlines, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, certified mental health aids and help centers located on campus.
“There are resources on campus that students can participate in,” Maroney said. “The health and counseling center is in the Health Pavilion, in Suite 108, and is free for students and offers group or one-on one therapy.”
If you or someone you know are experiencing depression or are contemplating suicide, there are free resources that are available. The suicide prevention hotline can be reached through an app, my3app.org, by texting CONNECT to 741741 and by phone at 1-800-273-8255.