Faculty, Staff To Learn About Suicide Prevention


Tragic in nature, the act of suicide is doubly so because it can be prevented in most cases, says a local mental health expert. “Suicide is all about ambivalence,” said Steve Estopare, program director for the Mental Health Association of Greater St. Louis. “Most people do not want to die. They just see no escape from their situation.”

Estopare will give a presentation on suicide among college students to Maryville University faculty and staff from noon – 1 p.m., Monday, March 19, in the Novus Board Room, located within the University Library building. His appearance is sponsored by Maryville’s Office of Personal Counseling. Estopare and Jennifer Henry, director of personal counseling at Maryville, agree that while suicide rates among college students have not increased in recent years, the subject remains worthy of discussion.

“The concern about suicide, the intensity of mental health problems, and liability concerns at colleges and universities are increasing,” Henry said. She noted recent studies estimate that each year, more than 1,000 college students across the United States take their own lives, making suicide the second leading cause of death among college-age men and women. The leading cause is auto accidents. “Kids and young adults don’t have the proper coping techniques,” Estopare said. “There’s been a breakdown in parenting.”

According to the Spring 2006 American College Health Association’s National College Health Assessment, 43.8 percent of students reported feeling so depressed in the last year, at least on one occasion, that it was difficult to function. The same study showed 9.3 percent of students seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year at least once.

Estopare said he would not let privacy concerns stand in the way of intervening with a student.” If I was a professor and saw the warning signs, I would definitely ask the question; ‘Are you thinking about suicide?,'” he said, adding that asking about suicide does not give a person ideas they did not have already.

Warning signs include depression, and talking and thinking a lot about death and violence, Estopare remarked. A pre-existing mental illness could exacerbate these warning signs, he added. Estopare said statistics show 65 percent of those who commit suicide were depressed at the time.