Rick Mogil, program director for Didi Hirsch’s Suicide Prevention and Bereavement Services, was on campus yesterday for panel entitled “Saving Ourselves (S.O.S.).”
Mogil came to discuss the warning signs of suicide, the ways loved ones can be there for people considering suicide and the impact that this heavy topic has on so many.
Though the turnout only included about 10-15 people, the event still brought together representatives from the office of multicultural affairs, Student Health Services, students who have been affected by suicide in some way and students eager to help those who have been touched by this issue.
“One suicide affects 18 to 25 people intimately, [those who] are connected to that person,” Mogil said.
Over 42,000 suicides occur each year. It’s the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. — seven spots ahead of homicide — yet they primarily go unreported by the media. 9.4 million people have thoughts of suicide each year, over one million of which attempt suicide.
Depression, anxiety and in some cases suicide, are all issues that plague college campuses across the nation, including Cal State Long Beach – which had three student suicides last year.
School, financial stress, relationships, family and pre-existing health issues are all stressors that can lead someone down a path toward depression and anxiety, and all are problems that most college students will encounter in their academic career.
“[To] someone with a mental illness, their perception of these things is [that] it’s just too great for them to deal with,” Mogil said. “You start throwing in things like a loss – and it could be a loss by a death, could be loss of a job, loss of identity… How do you deal with that?”
It’s not about wanting to die, Mogil said. It’s about wanting to end the psychological pain. “[They’ll] do anything to end that pain – unfortunately meaning die.”
He says that one of the most important things someone can do to help the person they’re worried about is to ask about what they’re going through.
“Don’t be afraid of asking about suicide,” Mogil said. “You just reaching out that one time may break the cycle of the thoughts the person may be having.”
As we begin to transition from suicide awareness month into OUTober, this year’s theme of LGBTQ heritage month, it is notable to mention that this is an issue that impacts the LGBTQ community even more so than non-LGBTQ identifying people. According to Mogil, around 4.5 percent of non-LGBTQ community members will attempt suicide, where 10-12 percent of the lesbian and gay population and 41 percent of transgender people make an attempt on their life due to social stigmas and family strain.
“LGBTQ youth, if they are facing family rejection, are 8.4 times more likely to attempt than those who have a supportive family,” Mogil said.
Most people who attempt suicide suffer from depression. Other afflictions that can often lead to suicide are anxiety, bipolar disorder and psychotic and personality disorders. According to Mogil, people with psychotic disorders have about a 15 percent chance of dying by suicide.
People who are close to those with these afflictions are encouraged to not fear the conversation of suicide.
“I deal with survivors all day long, you’d be surprised how many of them told me their loved one said they were going to kill themselves and they didn’t believe it,” Mogil said. “Ask open ended question, make them talk. Remember we’ve been given one mouth and two ears; we have to listen twice as much as we speak.”
If you find yourself in conversation with someone struggling with suicidal ideation, keep an open line of non-judgmental communication.
“Don’t minimize what’s going on,” Mogil said. “Take every thought seriously… and don’t offer immediate reassurance. Express concern and empathy.
There are resources on-campus like CSULB Counseling and Psychological Services, located in Brotman Hall room 206, as well as off-campus like Didi Hirch, which has a 24 hour crisis line, to help students considering suicide, or are worried about someone close to them who might be considering suicide.