When she was 16, Sophia* made a promise to herself: if she couldn’t meet the expectations her family and peers had set for her by the time she was 21, she would take her own life.
Since 13, she said she lacked an environment that was supportive or helpful. Pressure from school and extracurriculars coupled with a chaotic home life led her to start self-harming.
“Cutting was my way of coping with overwhelming anxiety,” Sophia said. “In order to shut it out and see it in form.”
This cycle continued for years. By the time she turned 21 her junior year at Wilkes, her family life “had gotten out of control,” and everything started becoming increasingly overwhelming for her.
When the semester ended and summer came, the chaos was left without a structure, and it became too much to handle.
She decided it was time to make good on her promise.
Sophia was ready to take an entire bottle of heart medication when a well-timed phone call from her boyfriend interrupted her plan. While that was enough to make her change her mind, Sophia said she still struggles with depressive and suicidal thoughts, as well as self-harm.
It hasn’t been an easy road to recovery, although she said that talking has made it easier.
“It was really hard until I started opening up to more people,” she said. “Growing and letting myself talk about it has let me step away from it.”
Sophia’s story is one that rings true for many others. According to a study done by Berkeley.edu, one out of ten college students contemplated suicide. Suicide is also the second leading cause of death for college-aged people, according to the same study.
“The suicide rates for college students are astounding,” Samantha Davidson, senior environmental engineering major, noted. “As college students, we put more pressure on ourselves.”
Davidson is part of a team that helped to organize this year’s Glow Run 5K, the proceeds from which will go to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The foundation’s message, as well as the aim of the 5K, is to bring the conversation about suicide “out of the dark,” something Davidson said is important.
“[Suicide] is a topic that people don’t like to talk about,” Davidson said. “People affected by suicidal thoughts…it’s not as open as some of the others causes [breast cancer, etc.] so it’s something that really needs the awareness. People need to realize that they aren’t the only one who has thought about it.”
Sophia agrees that suicide has a stigma surrounding it. She attributes this to it being sensationalized in mass media, making some people believe that having suicidal or depressive thoughts is “over-dramatized.”
“I think that view of it makes it jarring to people, makes it a big deal and hard to talk about,” she said. “You’re never sure what the other person is going to think. There are too many ways for people to respond to it to feel comfortable saying something without the fear of what will happen.”
While she acknowledges that it can be difficult, Sophia recommends talking to someone if suicidal or depressive thoughts cross one’s mind, despite how harmless they may seem.
“Don’t think it has to be some ideal to be the pinnacle of problem,” she said. “If you’re concerned with your well-being, even if you aren’t self harming….don’t write it off as nothing. Talk to someone sooner rather than later.”
This year’s Glow Run 5K will take place on Friday, April 17, with registration starting at 8 p.m. at the UCOM. Registration is $5 for students and $10 for non-students, with all proceeds benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. For more information, readers can contact Davidson at [email protected]
Anyone struggling with depressive or suicidal thoughts is encouraged to reach out to the national suicide prevention hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.