Finals time increases potential for suicide rates

GVL/Bo Anderson

Senior Colin Kammeraad studies in Kirkhof Sunday afternoon.

GVL/Bo Anderson Senior Colin Kammeraad studies in Kirkhof Sunday afternoon.

Rachel Cross

For nearly all students – at Grand Valley State University and beyond – finals week is synonomous with stress. Final projects, papers and exam preperation are overwhelming for most; however, when the stress becomes too much to handle, the Grand Valley Police Department alongside the Counseling Center are encouraging students who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts to seek their guidance and utilize on-campus resources.

Capt. DeHaan, assistant director of GVPD, said concerns of suicidal behavior often increase with midterm and finals.

He added that the police on campus are responsible for all calls for suicide.

DeHaan said suicidal behaviors can be defined in four ways: suicidal ideation, suicidal intent, attemped suicide and completed suicide.

Suicidal ideation is when an individual is seriously considering committing suicide and may express this to a friend. Suicidal intent is when someone has an actual plan on how they would commit suicide, whereas attempt is when people try to commit suicide, which may or may not result in an injury. The most serious suicidal form is a completed suicide, resulting in ending one’s life.

“We will go to a call for service or department if someone is feeling as though they are thinking about suicidal ideation,” DeHaan said. “We will have a conversation with the individual and encourage students to go to the Counseling Center.”

DeHaan said it is critical that roommates and friends are mindful and observant of their friend’s possible changing behaviors.

“For people who think that they have a friend or roommate that has expressed signs of suicidal ideation, it is better to air on the side of caution than not,” DeHaan said.

Dehaan said that GVPD is in charge of all on-campus suicidal calls, and individuals who live off-campus can contact the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.

Erin Klingensmith, clinical psychologist at GVSU’s Counseling Center, said that there are several warning signs that friends and family should look out for: Any noticeable changes in behavior or mood, sudden inability to sleep well, changes in personality, or feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

“Triggers for suicidal thoughts or feelings may be due to a loss, stress, changes, or feeling overwhelmed or out of control,” Klingensmith said.

According to the Question Persuade Refer pamphlet by Dr. Paul Quinnett, there are several different direct and indirect verbal cues that individual may express if they’re thinking about suicide.

Some direct verbal cues could include: “I’ve decided to kill myself,” ”I wish I were dead,” “I’m going to kill myself,” or other phrases like these.

Indirect verbal cues could include: ”I’m tired of life,” “What’s the point of going on?”, “My family would be better off without me,” or any similar phrases.

In annual reports released by the Counseling Center tracking suicide-related episodes, numbers showed an increase from the 2010-2011 school year to the 2011-2012 school year, from 49 suicide-related episodes to 60 episodes respectively.

So far this year, Klingensmith said 50 percent of crisis episodes reported are very similar to last year’s statistics.

Klingensmith said the Counseling Center’s role in helping an individual who is thinking about suicide is to have a conversation with the person right away.

“The Counseling Center has office hours, crisis drop-in hours, and a counselor is always on duty every night,” Klingensmith said. “Suicidal concerns can also be addressed to a Resident Assistant, housing, or (GVPD). Counselors can make an assessment on an individual to see where they’re at. If we feel that the student is able to come in the next day to see us we will arrange that, or if we fill like a person is in danger we can send them to the hospital for an evaluation if they seem like they are risk to themselves or others.”

Klingensmith said that if a student refuses to seek help through GVPD or the Counseling Center and a friend, roommate, or professor is aware, they should not keep it to themselves.

“No matter what the background of a student, it doesn’t make a difference, all friends and family must take suicidal thoughts seriously and take the necessary steps to help,” he said.

Each semester student groups participate in one of the Counseling Center’s “Question, Persuade, Prefer” training sessions, Klingensmith said, in an effort to arm people with enough knowledge to help someone that is experiencing suicidal thoughts, but participation is not limited to organizations.

To sign up for the QPR training, call the Counseling Center directly at (616) 331-3266.
[email protected]

**numbers according to GVSU Counseling Center’s 2010-2011, 2011-2012 annual reports
2010-2011: 49
2011-2012: 60

Noticeable changes in behavior or mood
Sudden inability to sleep well
Changes in personality
Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

Counseling Center: (616) 331-3266
Emergency contacts:
On-campus: Grand Valley Police Department (616) 331-3255
Off-campus: Ottawa County Sheriff’s Department