In high school Kate Dooney was an honors student, a cheerleader and a passionate photographer. Then she went to William Patterson University and found herself in over her head. Dooney, who was studying early childhood education, began to lose herself a couple months after beginning college. She was no longer in honor level classes, and no longer a cheerleader. She did not have time to practice her photography. Desperate to prove herself Dooney stuck it out, but things quickly began to spiral out of control. She says, “Every day something else was due. I constantly felt a pressure and anxiety that I wouldn’t get done what I had to, and eventually it caught up.”
Dooney began handing in assignments late, then eventually not at all. Instead of going to classes she stayed in her dorm room. She told The VOICE, “It’s hard to get back on track once you’re behind, and I didn’t have to energy to try.” Without even realizing it, she says, she began to slip into a depression. She began to fail out of classes because of her absences. “That’s when the thought settled in that I’d have to tell my parents that I failed out of college that they paid for, my first semester,” Dooney said.
Although she is doing well at Monmouth County Community College now, at the time Dooney was so overwhelmed by the fact that she had failed out of school and would have to tell her parents, that she says she thought that killing herself was the only way out. “It seems crazy now, but at the time I couldn’t believe what had happened, and anything seemed better than telling my parents.”
Gayla Martindale writes on the blog StateUniversity.com that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Martindale cites a number of alarming statistics. She writes that nearly 1,100 suicides will occur on college campuses this year and many more students may think about suicide or make a suicide plan. The blog also notes that in the past 50 years the suicide rate for those age 15-24 increased by over 200 percent, and about 12 people aged 15-24 will commit suicide today.
According to the article “College and Teen Suicide Statistics” by Jackie Burrell, of About.com an ACHA study in 2002 said that 1 in 12 college students has actually made a suicide plan at some point and 1.5 out of every 100 have actually attempted it.
According to Alex Johnson of msnbc.com, problems with school or academics are one of the top reasons that college students to commit suicide. Some of the other reasons included relief from emotional or physical pain, problems with relationships and untreated depression. According to Johnson’s article “Half of College Students Consider Suicide,” a study extrapolated that at an average college with 18,000 undergraduate students, 1,080 of them would seriously contemplate taking their lives in any year…they also found that half of students who had had suicidal thoughts never sought counseling or treatment.
Martha Gunning, Counselor of Student Development Services at Mercer, says there are a few reasons why she thinks students don’t reach out for help. “One, students are not aware of their resources at school. Two, many students believe there is a negative stigma that is attached to seeking help. And three, students don’t acknowledge their problem,” said Gunning. Despite all those who many not reach out for help Gunning also said “the number of students who are seeking help has increased significantly and the problems [they describe] have become more severe over the years.”
As has been covered in previous VOICE articles, Mercer does not have a health center. A search for health services on the Mercer home page offers a link to information about blood banks and bedbugs. The college had a psychologist, Dr. Valerie Brooks-Klein, but she left on April 12, and it is not clear when she might be replaced.