Student death has counselors offering ways to manage stress

By Rianne Coale

The recent death of a Loyola University Chicago student sheds light on the challenges facing college students, and has counselors from Chicago area universities suggesting ways for students to manage stress during the intense final weeks before summer break.

Freshman Joseph Suh, 18, was found dead in his dorm room at Regis Hall on April 5. Chicago police said there was no evidence of foul play, and after an autopsy was conducted, his death was ruled a suicide.

According to the American College Health Association, suicide rates have almost tripled in young adults, ages 15-24, since the 1960s. Suicide is the second most common cause of death among college students and counts for about 10,888 deaths per year. That’s roughly 7.5 suicides per 100,000 students.

Michael England, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist at the University of Chicago , offers some reasons why students may harm themselves.

“Anxiety, depression and stress can all play a role in someone’s choice to take their own life,” England said. “College is a stressful environment. It is nothing like high school, and with the added stress of being away from home, it can really harm a persons mental well being.”

Stress plays a huge role in the way students perform physically and mentally nearing the end of the semester, school counselors say. With the stress of finals, doing well in classes, working and having a social life, the number of students who visit Loyola’s Wellness Center increases this time of year.

“Generally, we see a significantly large number of students take advantage of our counseling services this time of year,” said one Loyola counselor who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivities surrounding the recent suicide. “It’s good to see that many students are seeking help when they feel overwhelmed and anxiety ridden.”

A lot of students are fragile and sensitive a during the last few months of the semester, and according to a study done by the American Psychological Association in 2009, 45 percent of young adults report feeling anger, fatigue or irritability as a physical effect of stress, 40 percent report a lack of interest, motivation or energy and 15 percent report feeling sad or depressed.

According to another ACHA study, 1 in 12 students have actually made a suicide plan at some point and 1.5 out of 100 students have actually attempted it. This concerns many professionals and wellness advocates as they try to make help available on campus to all who need it.

“We’re trying to make our resources known and available to all students, especially the incoming freshman,” England said. “We don’t target one specific behavior, so everyone should feel comfortable coming to talk to us. We’re on-call 24 hours a day, you can walk-in the clinic anytime and if you’re stressed out there are therapists you can talk to.”

Ann Bregman, Psy.D., the associate director of DePaul University Counseling Services, says students need to learn to relax, practice acceptance, talk rationally to themselves, exercise, watch their habits and talk to friends to help modify over-reactions to situations.

As finals approach, students are encouraged to seek help from their university wellness centers if they are having feelings of distress or anxiety. No matter what behavior a student is experiencing, there are licensed psychologists and psychiatric counselors that are available to help. Many professionals encourage students to not feel shy about seeking help because they have hundreds of fellow peers who may be feeling the exact same way.

“The reason we see more students come into the clinic is because they are more comfortable talking about their problems, and college students who accept professional help are no longer seen as social outcasts among their peers,” England said. “We want to manage and prevent problems from getting out of hand, so if situations aren’t labeled and are put them in more general terms, students are much more likely to seek the help they need and deserve.”

Please contact the Loyola Wellness Center for more information:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Wednesday 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Saturday 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.



One thought on “Student death has counselors offering ways to manage stress

  1. The best comment a teacher ever told me was that “Stress never goes away, it just changes”. I never forgot those words, because it’s true. One stress is exchanged for another, and we are constantly forced to deal with stressful aspects of life, whether we want to or not. College is a particularly stressful time, and it might be the first time a student has to deal with so many stressful elements, from all directions! Coping techniques are vital in guiding a student, and ensuring they know they have the support they need.

    Great article.

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