I'm going to talk about suicide today.
I don't want to, but I think it is important. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students.
The No. 1 cause is accidents, mostly vehicle-related. Since we aren't going to outlaw cars anytime soon, we need to worry about something that is easily avoidable.
There are those who believe that suicides peak during the holidays, but that's not necessarily the case. Skeptics argue that after the holidays is the worst time. They argue that the holidays give a depressed person reason to hope: the hope that his or her life situation will become more tolerable.
After the holiday season when the eggnog dries up and the mistletoe has wilted and is on its way to becoming moldy after never being used for kissing under, the victim of depression has nothing to look forward to. It is imperative that parents pay attention to their offspring and that other students be aware of how their classmates are doing emotionally.
Also, another factor that needs to be addressed is the subject of romantic relationships during the holidays and how they relate to depression and suicide. There seems to be an idea floating around, especially among college students in this area, that it's acceptable behavior to dump your Significant Other before the holidays.
I argue that this is unethical. It's simply common courtesy to stick it out through the holidays for the sake of merriment and good-will-to-men during the season. Others will argue that it is too expensive to buy gifts for some poor chump about to be dumped. This is a weak argument. No one said you had to gift the poor wretch -- just give companionship.
As a student, there are plenty of reasons to be stingy with your finances. Just blame expensive textbooks, the failed economy, that job at Starbucks you never got, the beer-pong game that went into overtime that you got hornswoggled into paying for and those Phi Theta Kappa dues that you owe.
The point is you don't have to give gifts -- just your love because that's what the holidays are all about. Then afterwards you can break it off -- but do it in a reasonable amount of time before Valentine's Day or you will have to endure that holiday also with the same companion.
Back to suicide; if you must break up with someone, make sure the person is all right. If the person is threatening to kill himself or herself, don't leave this person alone under any circumstances. Console the person and call appropriate help or 911.
The next category contributing to depression that could lead to suicide is failed dreams. A study has revealed that the suicide rate for students significantly increases ages 25 to 30. The reason for this, I believe, is that American young people have been fed a lie since they were infants. That lie is that they can achieve their dreams of becoming a rock star or an astronaut. Twenty-five is the magical age when most young people, students or not, realize that these dreams will never become a reality.
Age 25 also is the same time when parental cash flow seems to cease for college students. When parents seem to suspect that the "tuition money" is being spent on beer-pong games at The Partisan.
Most people are aware that untreated depression is the greatest contributing factor to suicide. They don't realize that stress is also a major contributor and that it exacerbates depression.
Students need to be in control of their emotions during stressful periods of the semester, such as the first week, midterms and finals week. Set aside some time to relax and gain perspective. Mostly, try to interact with people who genuinely care about you and avoid risky behavior -- such as beer-pong.
If you are still having trouble with depression, contact your student body office. The people there will be able to direct you to counseling free of charge; if it isn't free, talk to the dean because you are entitled to it.
If you find yourself in imminent danger of harming yourself, call the national suicide hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).
Remember: We are all in this together. If you see someone hurting, reach out to him. If you yourself are hurting, ask for help and don't feel ashamed.
Seth L. Ewing writes the Gown and Town column, which deals with issues pertaining to students of Merced College and UC Merced. The former is where he now studies journalism. Seth, a third-generation resident of Merced, spends his free time avoiding beer-pong and has no known associations with Greek fraternities.