More than 1,000 college students are lost suicide annually, and colleges are Sending Silence Packing

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Backpacks were recently placed in the Grove to promote suicide awareness as a part of the Send Silence Packing tour. Photo by Tucker Robbins.

Tucker Robbins
Oxford Stories

It can be as slick as a snake in the grass or as obvious as an elephant on a freeway.

It can happen in an instant, but will impact others for a lifetime.

More than 1,000 college students die from suicide annually.

Michael Ziblich, a father whose son died by suicide, recently spoke on the Ole Miss campus about the topic.

“What is apparent is that suicide can affect almost anyone, anyone under the awful influence of stress, acute anxiety and depression,” he said.

Conversation about suicide is becoming more prevalent.

“I think it makes people uncomfortable, and that people don’t like to talk about it because it’s something that happened to a friend or relative,” said Lacy Dodd, a prevention specialist for Communicare.

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From left, Michael Ziblich and Active Minds President Kathryn Forbes. Photo by Tucker Robbins.

She said many have trouble understanding because they have never experienced depression or anxiety.

“The majority of us find it difficult that someone could rationally choose death over life,” said Ziblich. “No one is immune to this. We may never truly understand the why, but we all have a duty and responsibility to engage this dreadful calamity and prevent its devastating results.”

Others have difficulties speaking up because of the stigma sometimes associated with mental health issues.

“There are no embarrassing moments when your life or someone else’s life is at risk,” said Ziblich, who said he wished his son had reached out to him or his wife, so they could have helped him get through whatever it was that pushed him to the breaking point.

Dodd said those with depression must speak up. “Everybody sees the silence, and everybody thinks they should be silent,” Dodd said.

She said the only way to deal with a problem is to talk about it, because if you leave it alone it will fester and turn into something worse.

“If a person presents this experience to you … listen to understand and not to judge, and ask them: ‘Are you alright?’ The power of prevention is so very important.” Ziblich said.

He believes suicides are happening at younger ages because of social pressures.

“Social perfection can be toxic,” he said. “You have benefits we could have never dreamed of, but challenges we never could have imagined.”

Lacy Dodd

Lacy Dodd is a Prevention Specialist from Communicare. Photo by Tucker Robbins.

Dodd said substance abuse is also a factor with depression.

“Even people in the health field don’t realize how closely related substance abuse is to suicide,” she said.

And some who are depressed choose not to take medication that could help them.

“They don’t want to change themselves,” Dodd said, “and it is a reality that if you take medication, it can be a mind altering thing. That’s why it’s important for someone to work with a professional on that, to seek help, to let people know if you have side effects from your medication, and make sure you just communicate.”

Dodd said some seek help through religion, exercise, or non-prescription pills. “Everything is individual,” she said. “You have to work with people with what they’re comfortable with, and you have to respect that.”

Ziblich said it can be hard for someone in pain or fear to realize how much they mean to those around them.

“A Persian philosopher once said: ‘I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.’ Everyone matters to someone,” Ziblich said.

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