Hanging by a thread; your life is not over

Monica Houston
Opinion Editor

In the past year alone, VCU has done more wrong for its students than right. A lack of diversity in students and staff, displacing more than 1,000 upperclassmen from dorms and many Richmond residents from their community and an increase in tuition and the president’s income. These factors, along with competitiveness, economy and campus crime, are the leading stress producers on college campuses.

So why care about the stress factors college students face? According to College Degree Search, six percent of undergraduates and four percent of graduates in a four-year university have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year alone. 1.5 out of 100 students have actually attempted suicide. Although the specific factors that led to his suicide are unknown, a student on VCU’s campus committed suicide just this month.

Suicide is completely preventable and there are always people to talk to, no matter how alone you feel. There are many communities that are solely dedicated to improving mental health. For example, Project Semicolon is a global non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project Semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire individuals to remember they are never alone and their life is important.

In the top five most stressful colleges, with Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania among the list, the highest number of undergraduates is 11,852 students. VCU houses 24,051 undergraduate students alone. On a campus of more than 30,000 students, along with the pressure to keep up with students who are seemingly successful, symptoms of depression and anxiety can quickly sneak up on a student. More people suffer from anxiety and depression than discussed in society, with nearly one in ten students realizing their symptoms but half refusing or denying help.

I transferred to VCU as a sophomore. By the time I got to my junior year, several on-campus factors contributed to my desire to dropout. Once I reached fall semester of my senior year, the desire to dropout had dwindled because I was almost at the finish line — but a whole new demon surfaced: depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Not only did I want to quit school, but I wanted to quit life. Escape from all the bullshit and pressures of life and school.

As students, we often feel like the only way to be successful is to do everything on our own. Society has placed this ever-shadowing cloud over students, requiring them to feel that the only way to be proud of their accomplishments is to have completed them on their own, without much help from others. Students who feel this pressure often also fall into depression because they do not want to seem like they are complaining or ungrateful.

I have never been diagnosed with a mental health issue, but I also grew up in a culture where asking for help wasn’t really an option. Blacks often face the stigma of having to be extremely resilient and strong in this country and any type of mental health issue is seen as a weakness.

This is an issue that many other cultures struggles with as well. However, as I look at my life in relation to the black community, my life could be taken any day by the very person who is supposed to project and serve me. A year full of police brutality majorly targeted in the black community, subconsciously affects your mentality and adds anxiety to an already increasing depression.

On a campus of more than 30,000 students, no student should ever feel alone. While the counseling centers on campuses are available, many remain understaffed. VCU’s counseling center is receiving a portion of funding to hire more counselors — which is crucial in correlation with our student population. There are about 30 counselors, including current employees and trainees, to our growing 30,000 student population. VCU should take this opportunity to hire a more diverse counseling staff as well. Students feel more comfortable when they can relate to people who share the same cultural issues.

It is crucial that students seek help whenever they are feeling stressed. Nearly one out of 10 students who went to counseling on campus said they tried to kill themselves at some point. More than 1,000 college students kill themselves every year and suicide is the third-leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24, according to a report by Emory University.

“A semicolon is used when an author could’ve ended a sentence but chose not to.  You are the author and the sentence is your life.”


Opinion Editor, Monica Houston

Monica Houston, photo by Brooke MarshMonica is a senior English literature major planning to eventually earn her master’s in education. Monica strives to combine her background in literature and passion for early education to influence future generations with her writing. “Don’t be offended this is all my opinion, ain’t nothing that I’m saying law. This is a true confession of a life learned lesson I’ve been sent here to share with ya’ll.” // LinkedIn

houstonm@commonwealthtimes.org

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