By Vincent Aldazabal
Last April, a young woman named Paige Aiello ended her life at the close of the semester. To many who knew her, she was driven, deeply caring and intelligent, and a she was a leader in every facet of her life. While the memory of her life rests in many hearts, her death is reflective of a tragic occurrence. Beneath the numbers are individuals who deserve a shoulder to cry on. They don’t have to feel alone, if we see we are not alone.
The following statistics regarding suicide among college students are from Emory University:
• The rate of suicide is between .5 and 7.5 per 100,000 college students.
• There are more than 1,000 suicides on college campuses per year.
• Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people 25 to 34 years old and the third-leading cause of death among people 15 to 24 years old.
• Groups particularly at risk for ideation and attempt are male, white and under the age of 21.
• One in 10 college students has planned for suicide.
• Suicidal thoughts, making plans for suicide and suicide attempts are higher among adults 18 to 25 years old than among adults over 26.
• Lifetime thoughts of attempting suicide are reported to occur among 5 percent of graduate students and 18 percent of undergraduates.
Every day and everywhere we are told that life and name cannot independently function or have meaning without obediently placing income, social status and physicality before self. We are creatures obsessed with commodity, paranoid about self-image and fixated on what divides us.
We have exhausted time and energy following social scripts coercing us to become actors in an environment trapping us in fear and thriving on hostility.
Life is a garden of momentary interactions that define our existence. It is too common that, especially on a college campus, we forget our humanity. We forget the basic elements that are impetus for substantial growth. When it comes to confronting truth, we deal in deceit, focusing on what is easiest, not what is right. We have a choice: an action that is the most tangible identifier of a concrete existence.
If we can push aside all that clouds the essence of our existence and see the opportunity before us, we can be each other’s savior. Silence, now, is the greatest enemy. To remain passive only perpetuates the false notion of human suffering to be reflective of a moral failure of character. Even though they are frequently masked, feelings of hopelessness, rage and despair are universal. The number of students experiencing suicidal feelings, actions and thoughts is staggering. It reveals a most crucial truth, however, that to suffer is part of what it means to be human. It does not have to dictate our bodies and hearts, and when this truth is hindered, we must act to restore it.
Right here at the College, there are scores of people defying darkness, daring to live on in the face of suicide attempts, loss, drug addiction and moments of utter despair. To those who have suffered in the past and who suffer now, put down the script. Put down the booze. Put down the knife and step off from the ledge. There is no reason for you to apologize for who you are. You have no reason to live in shame. You can learn to forgive.
Feel your skin and the drum of life providing you with the courage to go on.
You and I were born to laugh endlessly. We were born to love eternally, to cry, to play, to try, to fail and to try again—to live. Pick up the phone, call Mom or Dad. Call a friend, take a hot shower, and buy a pint of ice cream. And please remember to smile. It is a precious sign of the infinite joy inside. Embrace your vulnerability and dispel your fear. Tell people you love them, and perhaps they will remember to love themselves. Be the spark of hope, one step and one liberating exhale at a time.
“If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain.
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin.
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.”