Suicide Awareness at MacDuffie

Jillian Ouimet, Senior Staff Writer

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youths aged 10-24 in the United States. Despite this, many are unaware of the prevalence of suicide due to the lack of conversation surrounding the issue. It is a difficult, controversial topic that people often don’t feel comfortable addressing – especially within schools.

Unlike physical illness, the symptoms of mental illness are not outwardly apparent. Students and faculty have no way of identifying what others are going through internally. Depression, anxiety, or other mental illnesses quietly afflicting an individual can influence an their potential susceptibility to suicide. 12.8% of youths make a plan for suicide, 7.8% attempt suicide one or more times, and 2.4% make a suicide attempt that requires medical intervention. It can be difficult to put faces behind statistics, but one of these youths could be a friend, a neighbor, or the girl you sit next to in geometry class.

This September was National Suicide Prevention Month; however, Macduffie did not address it. A small announcement during assembly or a school-wide email would have been more than enough to make students mindful of the issue. Sophomore Sophia Mason said the topic seems to be “unimportant” to the school because no information was presented to the students or faculty.  A Junior from China had a different outlook on the topic, believing that the wide diversity of international cultures at Macduffie contributed to our school’s lack of awareness of this national month.

When Macduffie students were asked about mental illness, they agreed that the topic is not recognized as much as it should be within our school. Sophomore Dima Aboukasm articulated, “There are a lot of people that suffer from mental illness and feel that they have to go through it alone, like suicidal thoughts or others.” As a community, we should make students more aware of the support Macduffie offers, so students can reach out for help and not feel so alone.

As a student at Macduffie, I feel there is always a lot of pressure and expectations to fulfill every duty that is asked of you without any questions asked. For example, you are expected to finish all of your homework each night, and saying your mental state was bad is not a valid excuse. This raises a very controversial question — is school in fact more important to society than mental health?

Students of different ages agreed that we live in a society that oftentimes views school as a priority over mental health. Aboukasm explains how “you have to come to school no matter what,” and a bad night or week is not regarded as a “valid excuse” to skip class. College Freshman Olivia Cyr admits, “as a teenager we are expected to succeed.” She also described how the amount of pressure that cumulates from school can make it easier for students to develop mental illnesses like anxiety. Students should not be expected to endure a workload at the expense of their health.

Neglecting to address suicide only reinforces the stigmatism surrounding mental illness and getting help. Uncomfortable conversations are often the most important ones to have; the difficult and controversial nature of suicide does not mean it should go ignored. It is a very real issue and the more we address it, the more pain will be treated and prevented.