We need to open up about mental health issues

For college students, stresses come easy because good grades don’t always. An inability to sort through these stressful feelings can manifest into symptoms of depression, or worse. Even something as simple as venting to a friend can go a long way in relieving tension.

But as with fight club, the first rule of mental health is: you don’t talk about mental health. It can be a very touchy subject, one that carries a negative connotation as much as it is misunderstood. And when thinking about how mental health ties in with suicide there’s a taboo that lies amongst all of the catastrophe.

U.S. suicide rates are now in the area of catastrophic, and suicide rates amongst college students are a pressing issue.

Nationally, suicide rates are currently at a 30-year high, sharply increasing by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to a recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students with over 1,100 lives lost every year nationally, according to a recent study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, nearly one in 10 college students has considered suicide.

More students shouldn’t have to die to spark greater change, and staying silent should no longer be something we tolerate.

The growing crisis is also a local struggle impacting the Los Rios Community College District. In February, American River College student Hector Zavala killed himself, according to an article by the American River Current. Zavala was a gifted athlete and charismatic friend to many who enjoyed his “happy-go-lucky” personality, according to the article. There are suggested ways to handle situations like this, such as 24-hour suicide crisis lines provided by the LRCCD. However, more steps are needed.

Because many of us aren’t accustomed to opening up about our sadness, having suicidal thoughts is often difficult to open up about, and those suffering from it are forced to keep their thoughts internal rather than getting help.

But as of now there hasn’t been many resources available for students troubled with thoughts of suicide, at least those that can intervene and prevent suicide attempts in a way that would be more personal.

The College Mental Health Services Program was introduced in Assembly Bill 2017 as a hopeful solution in reducing suicides specifically amongst college students. Recently signed into law, this program is a step in the right direction. First and foremost, it provides a way for students to access mental health services as they need to on campuses.

The program treats mental-health as a complex issue. It aims to prevent or identify and treat those struggling with mental-health issues on campuses, and it also trains students on how to detect and intervene in at-risk behaviors of their peers, according to legislation.

The program focuses on showing the need for college students to open up about their experiences with mental health issues, and to seek solidarity in those who want to help as well as those who need the help, reminding students that they’re not alone in how they feel.

Many may argue that not all student suicides can be prevented, but the program will help bring more awareness to the issue, which is alone a progressive step.

For students of Los Rios colleges and others, additional support could mean the difference between life and death. College counselors are notorious for not giving students enough guidance, and hopefully this program will set a necessary precedent to take mental health more seriously.

Students need to come forward with issues affecting their mental health, if not for themselves than for others also struggling with the same afflictions.