Dominique Kent/Assistant Opinion Director
A student killed himself last Sunday, and we should all be in mourning. I know I am.
I would love to have a list of things to do to protect the people we know, but there’s nothing I can write that hasn’t been covered in emails, social media posts and other mediums across campus.
The few weeks prior to this incident saw a push by Counseling and Psychological Services and other entities on campus to provide tips for how to notice and help people who may be suicidal. My Instagram feed has been full of similar tips and self-care reminders from various campus organizations.
So how, when every effort is being made to educate the public and to reach out to those that may be struggling, did someone still slip through the cracks?
The answer is, I don’t know. I’ve tried to come up with an answer, but all I can think of is that we need to change the way we, as students, think about suicide prevention.
It’s not just the responsibility of CAPS and trained professionals. We need to ask ourselves, what are we missing? Who around us is struggling? How do we become the kinds of people who reach out and protect those around us? We need to have a dialogue, a discussion. The worst thing we can do is sit on this in silence.
In a letter reposted onto Barstool’s Instagram account’s story, student Andrea Gonzalez writes that, although her teacher made sure to mention another tragedy—that of Kobe Bryant—the teacher failed to mention or give a moment of silence for the tragedy that hit much closer to home—the death of the FIU student. She argues that we need to break the stigma and talk about mental health, giving these issues a platform even when it might be uncomfortable.
Her letter made me think. Which of my teachers had mentioned the student’s death? Which of my friends? Although the death affected me deeply in private, I don’t remember having a single conversation about it outside the privacy of my own home.
There are certain reasons for this. Often times, people consider it dangerous to give too much attention to a suicide, for fear that this will inspire others who may be feeling the same way. But this fear, while legitimate, should not stop us from having these vital discussions. Nothing will ever change if we don’t talk about what we’re doing wrong.
There are major questions that need to be answered. How did someone slip through the cracks? Why didn’t the many tips and efforts by CAPS and others help? What could we have done differently—better? And most importantly, how do we keep this from happening again?
I don’t have the answers, but we can find them together.
In the meantime, there are resources on campus for people who need immediate help. If you’re feeling suicidal, get help. Please come to me or anyone else you can find. FIU is meant to be a family, and students are here to support each other.
If you notice someone that needs help, here are some things you can do. First, take any comments a person might make seriously. Sometimes jokes are just jokes, and sometimes jokes lead to something much more serious. Second, listen compassionately, without judgment. Third, take immediate action—as much as you can—to remove the individual from dangerous situations. Fourth, get help from someone close to you or the person. Finally, call one of the many organizations that are around to help. Don’t keep this weight on yourself. It’s too much for one person, and there are people qualified to keep the individual safe.
There must be ways to keep the people we know safe, but as we have seen this past weekend, more needs to be done. I suggest that we all come together to start a conversation about what more we can do. We cannot afford to be silent on these issues.
The reality is that there are more people on this campus struggling than we think. They need our time and attention. This is an issue that cannot wait.
Featured image by FIU Flickr.
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