Joseph Kasko
palmettoreport@gmail.com

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — September is National Suicide Prevention Month and the World Health Organization calls suicide a “global crisis,” as the group estimates a person dies by suicide every 40 seconds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 47,000 suicides in the U.S. in 2017, which is a rate of about 129 per day.

The CDC estimates for every one suicide death, another 280 people seriously consider it.

Among college students, suicide is the second leading cause of death, with roughly 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year.

“That is staggering,” said Dr. Gretchen Baldwin, a licensed psychologist and the clinical coordinator for counseling services at Winthrop University, who appeared on the Palmetto Report to discuss the topic.

Additionally, a recent survey, by health researchers in Boston, found 20 percent of college students have thought about suicide and 9 percent have attempted.

“It’s an issue here at Winthrop,” said Baldwin. “Almost 40 percent of our appointments in counseling services, that we saw last year, were with a student who was considering suicide at some level.”

She said people shouldn’t be afraid to talk about suicide, because discussing it can lead to intervention.

Baldwin said the presence of mental illness — including anxiety, depression, mood disorders and addiction — can increase a person’s likelihood to attempt suicide.

Baldwin said members of the LGBTQ community, especially those who are transgender, are also at high risk for suicide, with roughly 40 percent of those people reporting they have attempted suicide.

The Federal Communication Commission is considering making dialing 988, similar to a 911 call, a direct line to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“That would be amazing,” she said. “Right then and there you would legitimize a mental health condition (like suicide) and that would really help to reduce the stigma, because it would be a national movement saying this is a real problem.”

She said connecting more people to the prevention lifeline would be helpful, because talking about the problem can make a difference.

“Suicide is about pain. It’s about a person experiencing psychological, sometimes physical pain, where they feel it so intensely, they don’t see another way out. They don’t see that there are solutions to that pain, other than ending their life,” said Baldwin.

“Pain fluctuates, pain changes,” she said. “Being able to find support and not feel so alone, being able to be heard in the midst of that pain helps you ride it out that much better.”

Baldwin said anyone considering suicide should reach out to Winthrop’s office of Health and Counseling Services to get help.