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Give a helping hand to a hurting friend - The Red and Black : Opinion

Give a helping hand to a hurting friend

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Posted: Friday, December 3, 2004 12:00 am

Holiday cheer abounds as we gather to celebrate a time of miracles and peace.

But for some the holidays bring little cheer or joy. For the lonely, holiday gatherings can accentuate their isolation. For those wary of the future, they are a constant reminder of the passing of another year.

The holidays bring more than tinsel, menorahs and mistletoe. They bring stress, fatigue and unrealistic expectations. For some, they can lead to a severe bout of depression.

Could that mean case of the holiday blues lead to suicide?

Nobody likes to talk about suicide. We like to keep it in the closet where it only happens to others.

But this year at the University one of our own has died. We all heard Andrew Veal's story. We were all horrified by his senseless death.

We can no longer keep suicide in the closet.

Suicide is not a rare occurrence among young adults. In fact, it is the second leading cause of death after accidents among college students.

The good news is suicide can be prevented. Research shows 90 percent of college students who take their own lives have a diagnosable mental illness -- usually depression. Such conditions are highly treatable with proper medication and counseling.

The problem remains identifying students who are at risk, so they can be helped.

It is up to us to sound the alarm if a friend is in trouble. We must be each other's safety net.

Most students who commit suicide lack the support system to deal with the college stresses.

While Christmas is a time to be merry, it's also a season to keep a watchful eye on ours neighbor who might be deeply depressed.

To save a life all you have to do is be a friend.

According to the University Counseling and Psychological Services, 75 percent of people who commit suicide tell someone about it in advance -- it is up to us to listen. The CAPS Web site also lists several warning signs that could indicate suicide risk.

If you hear a friend or loved make any of the following statements, please pay attention:

- Take my stuff. I won't be needing it anymore.

- There's no point living.

- There's nothing I can do to make it better.

- Nobody understands me. Nobody feels the way that I do.

- The world will be better off without me.

- I won't be around to deal with that.

- Nothing's ever going to change.

If you observe the following signs in a friend of loved one -- please care enough to get them help.

- Showing interest in music, books or movies about death or suicide, giving away prized possessions, obtaining a weapon, stockpiling pills, writing farewell letters or e-mails, excessive risk-taking, e.g. abuse of drugs and/or alcohol, reckless driving.

Listen to your friend. Show them that you care. Most importantly, bring them to the University Counseling and psychological services. They can be contacted at 542-2273 (542-2200 after hours; ask for the clinician on-call). They have the resources to help.

If you are contemplating suicide, talk to someone -- anyone. Realize that you are not alone.

Silence is suicide's greatest ally. Please don't let a time of joy turn into needless tragedy.

-- Ariella Benshmuel is a graduate student at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication

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