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High suicide rates make awareness critical at ASU

 by Vedatrayee C. Banerjee,State Press
 published on Thursday, October 25, 2001



College students are at risk for suicidal tendencies, and ASU Counseling and Consultation wants to keep ASU students from becoming more statistics in Arizona's already high suicide mortality rate.

Arizona ranks third highest in the nation for suicide mortality rates, according to the Bureau of Public Health Statistics and the Office of Epistemology and Statistics.

Mark Groberski, Associate Director of Counseling and Consultation at the office of Student Affairs at ASU, said that students contemplating suicide are something that they run into often.

"Obviously depression is a major factor behind suicide rates for students and that is something we deal with routinely in the department here at ASU," Groberski said.

"When students express the thought of hurting themselves, it is important that we get a handle on how deep the person's suicidal thinking is," Groberski added. "Sometimes they benefit by just talking about their thoughts, but in the most severe cases we look into hospitalization and offer supportive therapy as well."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports suicide is the eighth leading cause of death among all Americans, the third leading cause of death among those ages 15 to 24, and the second leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 19.

Groberski identified drinking and drugs as a significant reason behind suicidal thoughts experienced by students, especially because both these components can often lead to depression.

In identifying students with suicidal tendencies, Groberski said that counselors look for signs like poor or excessive eating and sleeping habits, a change in behavior toward their everyday activities and grades in school as well as isolating themselves and having thoughts about death.

EMPACT, an organization in Tempe, also offers crisis services to ASU students during the weekends and after hours from the campus department of Counseling and Consultation.

Patricia Kempker, manager of the suicide prevention services department at EMPACT, identified the age group of 15-19 in Arizona as the tenth highest in suicide rates in the nation.

"Suicide on college campuses is still not being addressed fully and is often kept a secret," Kempker said. "And this is a problem, as many students in college are at risk at this time in their lives due to a high level of stress on being separated from their families for the first time and not having a support system."

Kempker mentioned depression, schizophrenia (mostly experienced by people in their late teens and early twenties) and bi-polar disorders as the most common ailments for suicide faced by students.

"Any of those ailments combined with drugs or alcohol can dramatically increase the risk towards suicide," Kempker said.

EMPACT is on 1232 E. Broadway in Tempe and can be reached at 480-921-1006. The Counseling and Consultation Department on campus can be reached at 480-965-6146.

Reach Vedatrayee C. Banerjee at

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