“If I killed myself today, would the university mourn my death?” So begins a letter taped to the door of the Brigham Young University student counseling center Tuesday morning.
“Would you ask your selves (sic) why this happened, or simply say this couldn’t be helped? … How about my professors and mentors, would they miss me?… Would they be made known of my death or would I be given failing grades because I was no longer there?”
“Would you ask yourself, if I asked for help? Because the answer is I did. I have a therapist on campus, and he is wonderful and well qualified. But I only see him once a month. Because he had too many clients to see in one week. We are made into a number to be shuffled through the counseling center so that the university can say they’re helping. But for those of us that are in desperate need of care, we are lost in the masses of students who struggle.”
“If I died, would anything change? Would you make sure the loss of my life and countless others meant something, instead of simply becoming a forgotten unknown statistic? Will you allow the tragic event that occurred in the Tanner Building to mean something?”
My heart aches for this young student who feels so alone and so invisible, for his or her fellow students who also feel invisible and especially for the young student who jumped to her death on Monday. My heart aches for those left behind, who now have to move forward without their beloved daughter.
BYU’s Counseling and Psychological Services is doing the best they can, but they are understaffed and underfunded, trying to meet the needs of an increasing number of students seeking their services.
Professor Adam Brown tweeted: “I’ve never referred a student to football, but I’ve referred many to CAPS. It’s frustrating to learn how spread thin they are.”
BYU President Kevin Worthen spoke briefly before LDS Apostle David Bednar addressed BYU students in a December devotional saying in part:
“Such events try our hearts and stretch our souls. They should also cause us to be more aware of, and more caring for, the well-being of every individual in our community.”
Arthur Brooks recently wrote of national epidemic of loneliness. He notes that a recent large study by Cigna found that most Americans experience “strong feelings of loneliness and a lack of significance” in their relationships. Almost half say they sometimes or always feel left out and tragically, 13 percent say that zero people know then well. Zero.
We all need to know that we matter. That people see us. That we make a difference.
In his eulogy for his father, George H.W. Bush, former president George W. Bush quoted from his dad’s inaugural address: “We cannot hope only to leave our children a bigger car, a bigger bank account. We must hope to give them a sense of what it means to be a loyal friend, a loving parent, a citizen who leaves his home, his neighborhood, his town better than he found it.”
That message applies to each one of us. We need to do a better job of seeing others. Of listening, honoring, and supporting each other.
I had a recent conversation with a new friend who looked like they had it all together. In reality, they were struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, combined with feelings of worthlessness. They confided that they had recently called the suicide prevention hotline at 2 a.m. I am honored they would trust me enough to share what was really going on and give me ideas on how to help. It also reminded of the saying: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts is asked to call the 24-Hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Utah also has crisis lines statewide and the SafeUT app offers immediate crisis intervention services for youths and a confidential tip program.
Holly Richardson, a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune, wants those who might be considering suicide to know that there is help and there is hope. Please stay.