Mercy Turns Focus to Mental Health During Suicide Prevention Month


Nearly 1.2 million.

In the year 2020, 1.2 million individuals attempted to take their own lives, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).  Of those 1.2 million, just under 46,000 people were successful in the attempt.  Presently, suicide is the 12th leading cause of death among Americans.

The month of September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month.  With the increase in suicide-related deaths over the years and the increased discussion about mental health and depression, universities are now under pressure to provide their students with an ample amount of resources and support staff to help their students understand their mental well-being and be present for them when that health takes a turn down.

Mercy College President Tim Hall, a long-time educator, recognizes that new issues are emerging with his students that were not being discussed when he first began.

“I have been in academics for a long time, and I know these issues affect our students.”

Hall has noticed the uptick in discussion around the topic, something that he could not have foreseen over 30 years ago when he started his career in education.  “Early in my career, I had a student at the law university that I worked at commit suicide.  Before that, I had not been around a situation like that.”

University students are among the highest group of individuals who have committed suicide.  According to a study completed by the University of Michigan, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students.  The study estimates that 1,1oo students on college campuses every year end up taking their own life.  While 1,100 may have been successful, 28 percent of college-level students seriously contemplate taking their own lives.

Many are familiar with the story of Tyler Clementi, a former student at Rutgers University who took his own life after being cyberbullied.  Clementi was outed by a former roommate of his and ended up jumping off the George Washington Bridge in 2010.  Since then, college students taking their own lives has been a major talking point across the country.

In recent years, student-athletes in particular have seen an uptick in suicide.  Earlier this past year, four collegiate athletes took their own lives.  The stresses of balancing school and social life, as well as competing in major college sports ultimately were too much for each individual to deal with.

In an article published by the Washington Post, former Oregon State runner Katie Initle said that “the fear has only grown” regarding declining mental health in student-athletes. After the death of Stanford soccer goalie Katie Meyer, the fear hit a breaking point for Intile and other athletes.  Their decision to speak to the Washington Post was due to the loss of the four student-athletes.

Mercy College athletes have taken steps to make sure that they are all having a platform to discuss their stress and mental health issues.

Carly Diolosa, the SAAC president, hosted a forum on Oct. 12 that was attended by over 90 members of Mercy athletics to discuss mental health, suicide prevention, and ways to cope with all of it.

Diolosa, a junior on the women’s lacrosse team at Mercy, stressed that the school while making advanced changes in how they approach mental health, can be doing more.

“I think after the events of earlier this year where several student-athletes took their own life, Mercy has done a much better job of just having the discussion about mental health.  Before that, it wasn’t really discussed, but they’re doing better.”

Although they’re doing better in that department, Diolosa thinks that more can be done by promoting the services that the school provides.

She added that there are things on campus that people can turn and Mercy is starting to make those services readily available but there can always be an improvement. 

Diolosa also emphasized that while student-athletes endure an “insane amount” of pressure from all of their responsibilities, they are not alone in their mental health struggles.

“Everybody goes through battles.  Everybody should be aware of the services on campus.”

Most universities now have staff on campus to help their students overcome their mental health struggles.  The Mercy College CARE Team (Concern, Assessment, Response, Evaluation) serves that purpose for the school.

According to their page on the Mercy College website, the CARE Team “is committed to enhancing the college experience through a proactive, collaborative, and thoughtful approach” regarding concerning behavior exhibited by students that attend the school.

The CARE team is composed of staff members from several different departments, including Campus Safety, Health and Wellness, and Residential Life among other departments.

“I’m very proud of the work our CARE team does,” says Hall.  “They do a great job of being there for our students.”  Hall also stressed that students should not hesitate to reach out if they are feeling “down or depressed.”

On the webpage that gives information about the CARE Team, the site also gives instructions to students and/or faculty regarding how to identify behaviors that can be deemed detrimental to mental health.  Hall and the CARE Team stress the importance of reaching out the second that one feels overwhelmed, or witnesses a classmate/friend displaying behaviors of poor mental health.

Of course, not all who are suffering from mental health problems will exhibit symptoms, or if they do will even consider discussing it with other individuals.  The National Alliance on Mental Health says the average person waits 11 years before going to treat their mental health issues.

Mercy College has taken considerable action to try to help students deal with their mental health struggles, a message the school and Hall hopes does not go unnoticed.