“The call of Death is a call of love. The End can be sweet if we answer it in the affirmative, if we accept it as one of the great eternal forms of life and transformation, and submit to its calming, blissful embrace.”

-Hermann Hesse

Suicide is the third highest cause of death among youth 15 to 24 years old, and rates of suicide have doubled in this age group since the 1970s according to data reported by the American Association of Suicidology, which informs the rest of this article. Due to its prevalence, it is important to understand the causes of suicide, and what can be done to prevent it from continuing to occur.

The wish for death is born when one’s pain exceeds his resources to cope with that pain. Upon experiencing imesurable grief, and having no source of support in facing it, one so seeks to end their life in order to stop suffering.

There are many risk factors which may lead to suicide ideation and attempts. A history of mental illness naturally predicts suicide: 90% of suicides reported in 2010 were cases diagnosed with a mental illness, with the highest rates seen in those diagnosed with depression, schizophrenia, and substance dependency.

However, many people who have not been formally diagnosed with a disorder may still consider ending their lives. A history of abuse, whether physical or sexual, is a risk factor for comitting suicide, as well as a history of violent and reckless behavior. Less obvious, but just as serious, risk factors also include a history of unstable relationships, like divorce or seperation. Having had an aggressive relationship with one’s parents also contributes to this risk factor. Finally and most markedly, a history of self-injury, like cutting oneself, predicts suicide.

All of these risk factors, whether they are acute enough to warrant the diagnosis of a disorder or not, breed the wish for death precisely because they strip a person of their strength to cope with pain. Violence and abuse in a family causes one to feel lost or abandoned, unable to rely on theircaregivers as a source of support. Similarly, frequent mobility makes it more difficult for one to build a social support system. As a result, a very low self-esteem may incubate, and the potential to harm themselves may be born as a reaction to lack of affection.

As severe as such cases may sound, the behavior of someone contemplating suicide isquite distinct, and there is much hope for you to spot these symptoms in a loved one in time to intervene. A withdrawal from friends and regular daily activities may be the first warning sign you notice in a person contemplating suicide, as well as a corresponding loss of interest or pleasure from activities that used to elicit it. Hearing one talk about having no purpose or find no meaning in life is a common thought as well. Serious anxiety and feeling like there are no solutions to one’s problems is also characteristic of this condition, as are unusually violent outbursts, impulsive behavior, and a high increase of drug use.

A significantly distressing life event may bear the fruit of death in a person who you know well and perhaps would not expect to resort to committing suicide, which is why it is important to be alert for these warning signs. Most obviously, if a person has expressed intent to kill himself, has a definite plan, or is looking for the means to do so, he is at high risk. Someone who has shown no previous interest in firearms but suddenly comes into possession of one should be of concern, given that they remain the most commonly utilized method of suicide by essentially all groups. About one-half (49.5%) of the individuals who took their own lives in 2010 used this method, although men tend to use firearms more often than women as a means for suicide.

But what can one do to help a person who has spawned the desire to die? If you spot the symptoms I described in a loved one, having a regular conversation about how their days are going is a normal way of starting a dialogue about the way they feel. Inquire politely, but directly, about anything that may be distressing. If they express that they are overwhelmed, and see no way out of his problem, offering a solution may bear relief.

However,if upon trying to help they continue to express the hopelessness and despair that characterizes someone thinking about dying, it would be important that you simply asked, “have you thought about killing yourself?” As wacky as that sounds, it is best to speak openly and directly about the subject, otherwise you will make the situation uncomfortable for everyone. Your confidence will lead the way in the conversation, whereas being hesitant in asking will make the person hesitant to respond honestly.

If you find that they have not been contemplating suicide, they will most likely not be offended, rather appreciate the concern and the two of you can move on with your day. If they reveal to you that they have, let the know that you are with them to accompany them through their pain. Remember that feeling abandoned and alone begets the wish to commit suicide, and so showing concretely that they are not alone is the best way to combat the impulse towards death. Of course, you can then link them to the counseling and psychological services on your campus. Most colleges offer psychotherapy free of charge to students, and I know for certain that Mason does. Offer to walk with them to their first session to show them where it is and show support, ensuring they will have the strength to seek help.

The vast majority of people I have met in my experience are open to seeking help and overcoming their pain. They manifest these symptoms as a cry for help, and so at the first sign that there is another who cares for their lives, there is hope that their will to live may blossom. Living is quite a task. But in spite of all its trials, it is nonetheless worthwhile, particularly when we have the love and support of the people close to us.

Should you have any spontaneous questions about how to talk to someone who declares they have the means to kill himself and wishes to do it, know that you can call a crisis hot line at 1 800 273 8255 and a specialist will walk you through how to communicate with the person in order for him to choose to continue his life. Thanks for reading everybody, stay safe.

“But in the end one needs more courage to live than to kill himself.”
-Albert Camus


Krysinska, Karolyna, and Martin Graham. The Struggle to Prevent and Evaluate: Application of Population Attributable Risk and Preventive Fraction to Suicide Prevention Researach. Blackwell Publishing, Oct. 2009. Web. Feb. 2014.

United States of America. American Association of Suicidology. US Census Bureau. By A.L. Berman. American Association of Suicidology, 2010. Web. Mar. 2014.


The Cave


By: Francesco Yepez-Coello

Peole often post facebook statuses or tweets sharing information that is private, or inappropriately intimate for the medium, even outside of a “confidential” place like GMU confessions. The phenomenon is such that doctors Chia Yeng and Bradford Brown conducted a study in which they interviewed a large sample of undergraduate students about their activity in social media, primarily facebook, and asked them about things such as motivations for posts, the way they feel when they post, the content of each post, etc, and their results shed light on the darkness of many students’ loneliness.

Most people who post express a desire to be acknowledged and supported in their struggle. But social media is a poor substitute for human interaction. With no physical contact to catch all the nuances of speech and nonverbal behavior, how could sharing your feelings online as a wall post truly provide the catharsis as sharing it with a friend might? The study showed a severe lack of tangible social support among participants who expose themselves so, which is a serious concern.

Although some relief is experience by people who post like this on Facebook, there are nonetheless harmful effects. Firstly, sitting in the dark, staring at a computer screen, hiding in a sort of cave, cannot provide you with the support that natural human interaction can. Even if a person responds encouragingly to your candid post, that person cannot hug you, laugh with you, or smile to brighten your day. Furthermore, interacting through message boards without perceiving another person’s face makes it less likely that a person will experience sympathy, as Confession #2855 so eloquently illustrates.

This makes internet interactions not only sub par, but harmful; your message will be read under very poor lighting, so to speak, and those who read it may not fully understand your pain. Having a poor social circle is one of the leading causes for depression amongst youth ages 18-25 according to another study (Hammen et al. 1998), most of all during our college years when we are away from hoe and do not have the direct support of our parents.

So, next time you are about to post something for all to see online, think to yourself: “who do I know who would love to hear about this?” And send it to that person instead. You’ll spark up a conversation and illuminate your social circle in a way that is actually meaningful. If you express your emotions directly to people you care bout, whether it’s a joke you thought of, or pain that you need to let out, you will cultivate that relationship, instead of plunging your thoughts into the void of social media, wherefrom you may not receive the same satisfaction and fulfillment of friendship.

Better yet, meet up with a friend and tell them all about it in person. Use social media sparingly, and only when what you need to communicate really merits a large audience, such as promoting some sort of event or making an announcement in a group page you are a part of. If you find upon reflection that there really is no one you would feel comfortable talking about a problem to in person, then consider visiting the Counseling and Psychological Services on campus, located in SUB I two floors above the Chick fil A. Build your social support group guys, and only use social media for convenience, not as a crutch.


Motives for Using Facebook, Patterns of Facebook Activities, and Late Adolescents’ Social Adjustment to College

Yang, Chia-chen ; Brown, B Bradford . Journal of Youth and Adolescence 42.3 (Mar 2013): 403-16.

Patterns of Adolescent Depression to Age 20: The Role of Maternal Depression and Youth Interpersonal Dysfunction

Hammen, Constance ; Brennan, Patricia A ; Keenan-miller, Danielle . Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology 36.8 (Nov 2008): 1189-98

Will you be feeling SAD this winter?

By: Christi Sabin

Photo by chop1n, obtained from Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Photo by chop1n, obtained from Flickr under Creative Commons license.

The days are getting shorter, and there’s a chill in the air, signs that winter is well on its way. While some people may feel a bit bummed-out that the summer is now behind them, for others, it’s much more than a yearning for one last trip to the beach. For some, the colder season can mean a time of drastic emotional changes that they just can’t seem to shake. It could be more than just a case of the ‘winter blues’, in reality, this could mean that they may be experiencing what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What exactly is SAD, and what are the symptoms?

SAD is a depressive disorder that is recurring in individuals mostly in the fall and winter, although occasionally it can be the warmer season that triggers the symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of other depressive disorders, including fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, irritability, and overeating or oversleeping. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5th Edition (DSM-V) the following criteria constitutes a possible diagnosis of SAD: depressive episodes recurring at certain times of the year, if two major depressive episodes have occurred in the last 2 years with no nonseasonal episodes at other times of the year, or if seasonal major depressive episodes significantly outweigh the number of nonseasonal episodes during the course of a person’s life. These criteria are listed as a specifier for depressive disorders, rather than a separate diagnosis, meaning that a person will be demonstrating the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but they do not fully meet the criteria, so it would be diagnosed as MDD ‘with seasonal pattern’.

What causes SAD?

The lack of light experienced in the shorter days is thought to affect the levels of melatonin in the body, which regulates our sleep patterns. The idea has also been postulated that the human body responds to the changing of the seasons as the rest of nature does, but that society expects us to stay active, which causes feelings of guilt, which can then manifest into feelings of depression.

Who is affected by SAD?

SAD can affect anyone at any time in their life, although there are certain individuals who may be at a higher risk. More women than men experience SAD. It is also more common in younger people, including children, adolescents, and young adults. People living at higher latitudes also have increased risk. People with a family history of mental health disorders are also at an increased risk. Overall, approximately half a million Americans have SAD.

How do I know if I have SAD?

If you have these symptoms during more than just a certain time of year, it could be due to another underlying mental health disorder, such as MDD. There could also potentially be a physical cause of the symptoms, so also check with your physician to make sure there isn’t a medical reason for your symptoms. Also, if your symptoms are the result of something circumstantial that happens to you at a certain time of year, this could also be the cause. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for SAD?

Light therapy has become a popular way of treating the effects of SAD. A special light box is used by the individual for about 30 minutes per day, and the recommended intensity of light is 10,000 lux. Another helpful technique is negative ion therapy, which can also be found in some light boxes so that you get a combined effect, such as this one from Amazon: NatureBright-SunTouch-Plus-Light-Therapy. Seeking treatment with a therapist may also be beneficial. Medication is a potential option as well. Various natural remedies can be useful, including herbs such as St. John’s wort, ginkgo biloba, and Siberian ginseng; as well as vitamin supplements such as B-vitamins, L-tyrosine, and zinc. Any combination of these options could help alleviate the symptoms of SAD, however It is recommended that you consult your physician or a mental health professional before starting any type of treatment plan.


GMU Fairfax Campus Counseling and Psychological Services Center: 703-993-2380

Suicide Hotlines:

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-899-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)


American Psychological Association. (2006). Bright Lights, Big Relief. Retrieved from

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental  Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

DeAngelis, T. (2006, February). Promising new treatments for SAD. Monitor on Psychology, 37(2), Retrieved from

Balch, J.F., & Balch, P.A. (1997). Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Second Edition. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group.

Blaszczak, J.  (2005). 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 10, 2013, from

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2004). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from 

National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institute of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2013). Seasonal affective disorder. Retrieved from