This semester, about 75 Trinity undergrads will share an alarming common experience: they will seriously contemplate committing suicide. This I know from several years of conducting anonymous surveys of Trinity students.
Students who contemplate suicide are in emotional pain. They want their suffering to end, and they can’t see an alternative path. Usually they are experiencing depression. Sometimes they are terrified of impending failure or humiliation.
There is a wide range of suicidal thinking. At the low-risk end of the continuum, some students contemplate committing suicide but have no intent to act upon their thoughts. They typically tell me, “I’ll never do it.”
Farther along the continuum are those who feel some desire to die and have to resist planning how they would kill themselves. Still further along the continuum are those who have a plan for killing themselves and struggle against enacting their plan.
At the highest-risk end of the suicidality continuum are those students who have a plan, have the means to carry out the plan and have the intent to do so.
If you contemplate suicide, no matter where you are along that continuum, Counseling Services is available to you. One way a CS counselor can help is by collaborating with you to explore how you might get relief from the emotional pain, depression or fear that haunts you.
You can see a counselor for a first visit any weekday afternoon between 3 and 4:30 p.m. during walk-in hours (first-come, first-seen). Or you can make an appointment by calling us at 999-7411 or stopping by the office in 215 Coates University Center.
You may wonder whether we would tell someone about your suicidality without your consent. State law vigorously protects your confidentiality. It allows us to break confidentiality only if you give us reason to believe that you will probably kill yourself within a day or so (“imminently,” is the condition stated in the law). This is an extremely rare circumstance.
A second way we can help would be through our on-call counselor. When the office is closed, one of us is available to respond to a suicidal student by coming to campus to meet with the student. Under this circumstance, the on-call counselor may share information with selected campus colleagues to provide safety or support.
If you ever find yourself in danger of acting on your suicidal urges, please reach out for the on-call counselor. Any Residential Life staff member or the Trinity University Police Department dispatcher (999-7000) can notify the on-call counselor on your behalf. If you are unwilling to reach out to Trinity’s on-call counselor, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.
Trinity is a caring, responsive community. I suspect this is the main reason why no Trinity student has completed a suicide while on campus in 25 years. There is hope. There is help. Please, reach out.
Richard Reams is the associate director of counseling services.