In the wake of death

Recent student deaths remind us to extend support and compassion to our peers, seek campus resources

Anika Sultana | Mercury Staff



In the past few weeks, you have probably heard about the deaths of fellow students and grappled with the shock at losing classmates and friends. We at The Mercury have felt the heaviness too, especially with one of the deaths confirmed to be a suicide. Students struggling with suicidal thoughts — know you are not alone, and that your university is here to support you.

The details seem familiar on paper. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students nationwide and 25% of students have lost someone to it. 10.3% of college-age students have seriously considered suicide and 1.8% have tried.

We must also understand the realities of these deaths on a broader scale. Student deaths at UTD are not a statistical anomaly. A 2020 study found that the yearly mortality rate for Americans ages 15 to 24 was approximately 0.00165. Applied to UTD’s population of 30,000, that would give our school an average of 50 deaths per year — the real count is far below the national average. And this years’ other prominent losses were due to accidental death – which includes vehicular accidents — another leading cause of death for college students.

But when confronted with tragedy in person, every single death is magnified. Imagine those percentages concretely: in a lecture hall with 200 classmates, that’s 21 people who are struggling.

In the wake of these tragedies, it’s vital we come together to support one another and remember it isn’t too late to start seeking help. But how do we do that?

An important and easy method of providing support is to pay attention to our classmates and friends. According to the NIMH, common markers of suicidal thoughts or plans include sudden differences in behavior, ranging from increased risk-taking, disordered substance use and feelings of hopelessness to subtler changes like withdrawing from social events and mood swings. While it may be normalized among Gen Z to joke about suicide, this can mask people’s mental health struggles, making it especially important to check in with friends about how they’re feeling.

It is critical to understand the difference between suicidal ideation and intent. Suicidal ideation is any thought about suicide, no matter how quick or lighthearted. Many people experience casual ideation in their lifetime according to the CDC. Ideation is not always a cause for concern; however, suicidal intent, which is a decisive and planned-out desire to go through with suicide, is. If someone has a specific plan to end their life, it is important to call 911 or contact the Suicide & Crisis Hotline at 988 for their own safety.

One might imagine that the person who sits in the back of the classroom, quiet and alone, is at risk — and while relationship loss or stressors like bullying are indeed suicide risk factors, they don’t tell the whole story. It’s hard to imagine cheery, put-together, ambitious people struggling with suicidal thoughts, but it’s not rare. Many people aren’t as happy as they seem.

Many of us might feel it’s not worth seeking help for our struggles because we aren’t debilitated. We are still able to put on a fake smile and attend class even though we feel depressed. But the truth is that all pain is valid, and it is best to seek help before you reach a breaking point, not after. And at UTD, we have the unique ability to access mental health resources for free.

Remember, you are not alone. If you are struggling with hopelessness, depression, or suicidal thoughts, you are not the only person on campus who feels that way. Students who are in crisis and need to speak to someone immediately can use the SCC’s crisis hotline, 972-UTD-TALK, or contact 988.

Students looking for long-term therapy can access individual counseling through the Student Counseling Center and unlimited counseling sessions through the TimelyCare app. The SCC also offers group counseling like Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which targets suicidal behavior according to NIH, as well as grief sessions for those mourning loved ones.

Students needing psychiatric care can also access psychiatric services at the SCC, including diagnoses and prescriptions. Those needing long-term psychiatric services will be referred off-campus, by an SCC employee who can help negotiate affordable rates with local providers.

It is important that we listen to each other and make space for one another. Listen to friends when they send out signals for help, and allow yourself to have heartfelt, vulnerable conversations with others. Ignoring your own feelings or brushing off concerning behavior as “they were just joking” or “that’s just their personality” only serves to hurt us. If you are worried about a friend but unsure what to do, the SCC offers consultation appointments to advise Comets in seeking help for a third party. Assisting someone else can be daunting — especially if you are worried about upsetting them — but it’s necessary we do it, rather than choosing to trust an “I’m fine” that we don’t fully believe.

Comets can also access specially tailored resources and support groups for their unique situations for free. The SCC offers specialized services for survivors of sexual assault and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and the Students in Recovery Center offers a space for Comets who are struggling with addiction to connect with peers.

Beyond offering support for grief and mental health struggles, commemorating those who have passed is crucial to healing and preserving their memories. UTD will host the Comets Remember ceremony on March 19 for a current total of 11 students who have died during the past academic year. And following the recent death of student Abdul-Hadi Diwan, the Muslim Student Association has honored his memory with a fundraiser for humanitarian relief in Gaza.

As Comets move forward and grieve, it is important for us to remember that suicides often occur in clusters. According to the CDC, one person’s death by suicide can often spark a chain reaction, especially in young adults and schools. We must be present and support one another in the aftermath of these tragedies. These student deaths, and the impacts they’ve had on our community, must not be forgotten.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *