By Sasha Ray Purchase alumnus turned psychotherapist Jude Uy returned to campus Tuesday to inform students and faculty alike about the sensitive, albeit necessary, topic of suicide.
“This talk in our series is very special because the speaker is one of our alumni,” said Chair of Natural and Social Sciences Linda Bastone.
Uy, class of 1998, is a suicide prevention coordinator at Montclair State University. After attaining a master’s and a doctorate following his graduation from Purchase with a bachelor’s in psychology, Uy turned his passion into his life’s work: bringing the haunting reality of suicide to light, and helping students out of the dark who may have struggled with suicide in the past.
“I know of several people personally who have been in suicidal situations,” said Jaya Mallela, a junior psychology major. “It’s an important topic to understand from a research or clinical perspective, but also from an emotional and personal perspective.”
Triggered by a number of different things, suicide affects a large percentage of the population, particularly college students. Annually, 80 million individuals take their own lives, making suicide the second leading cause of death in the United States for individuals ages 15-34.
“There are more deaths from suicide each year than war and homicide combined,” Uy said at the opening of his lecture.
In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 45,000 individuals in the United States took their own lives.
“Men are more likely to die from suicide,” Uy said. “Females are more likely to attempt. The reasoning is men are more likely to use more lethal methods.” The rate of suicide by age, said Uy, has increased dramatically according to recent statistics. Suicides of middle-aged white men have shown the biggest increase. Similarly, ten percent of college students have consistently been at-risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors in past years. “At the university I’m at, we have about 20,000 students, so based on that statistic, we have about 2,000 students who are seriously contemplating suicide,” said Uy.
According to modern suicidology theory by psychologist Thomas Joiner, certain factors are necessary for a suicide to take place. Perceived burdensomeness, the notion that the person in question is a problem in the lives of other people, paired with thwarted belongingness, the idea that a person doesn’t belong, creates the desire for suicide when one has the capacity to do so. Considering the high demands of schoolwork, suicide often seems like the only way out to students.
Several common myths about suicide were overturned and explained in-depth. The biggest myth was the idea that someone who takes their own life, or attempts to, is sure of their decision, their mind cannot be changed.
“Most who attempt suicide remain uncertain until the final moment,” clarified Uy in response to the myth. “Most of them just wish for the pain to stop.”
Effective suicide prevention tactics include means restriction, when method of suicide is cut off or made less possible at the attempt, like constructing a net over a bridge to prevent students from jumping or the de-glorification of suicides in media.
Students, faculty and guests walked away from the talk with changed perspectives and a stronger thirst for the school to improve suicide prevention tactics.
Max Micallef, a junior political science major, said “I like that it wasn’t a general, fluffy, ‘it gets better’ thing, but more in-depth discussion about how to navigate around romanticizing things of that nature.”
Suicide, however complex of an issue, is preventable if addressed effectively and appropriately. Funding for schoolwide suicide training prevention programming in several different areas and tactics has proven to be a useful resource to students, especially at Montclair State University. As a college-based suicide-prevention coordinator, Uy’s mission is clear.
“What really drew me to this work is being able to help people,” said Uy. “The most rewarding and touching thing I can hear from a student is ‘You saved my life.’”