Trigger warning: The following content discusses suicide and self harm. Some people might find it disturbing. If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of suicide, please contact University Counseling Services.
CSUN’s University Counseling Services recently hosted Matadors Unite: Suicide Prevention Week to create “awareness…promote mental health and help prevent suicide”. The campus is equipped with crisis/urgent care walk-ins, a crisis hotline, and other resources to assist the campus community when necessary. If you or anyone you know is in need of assistance on the CSUN campus, visit the University Counseling Services website or call their main office at (818) 677-2366j.
In Special Collections & Archives there are materials that reference college students who have succumbed to suicide. Considering these materials span from the early 20th century until the late 1990s, a lot of the research content is outdated and more research has been done and continues to be done since these materials were published.
The first item is the On college disappearances: the analysis of a case that was originally published in 1929 and presented to the Massachusetts Medico-Legal Society about the case of a missing 18 year old who attended Smith College. Frances Smith, went missing when she was studying at Smith College in the winter of 1927. The author, a bio-psychologist, was brought in during the investigation to determine the reason for her disappearance. During his analysis he noted that Frances Smith’s family believed she was alive, but after more research into her daily routine he began to believe that that she may have committed suicide. The author wrote that “The greatest interest of this case is…the background of that disappearance, the study of which should teach us how to help cases like hers in the future.” Although it was not concluded that this was a suicide, it was one of many hypotheses of what happened to this college student.
The idea of suicide is not a new concept and continues to be a topic of conversation between researchers and therapists alike. In the book Emotional problems of the student, published in 1961, there is one section in the book that specifically focuses on Suicide on the Harvard campus. Although the 1960s seems like long ago, campuses continue to have similar mental health issues such as those at Harvard. Students then, as they continue to feel now, were seen to have depression, loneliness, and mental health issues, which included sadness that occurs when students are away from their families. William D. Temby writes “Although there may not be such a thing as suicidal personality or even a general type of personality prone to suicide, it is nevertheless agreed that there are suicidal trends within personalities.” At the end of this chapter Temby writes that “continuous investigation of this distressing consequence of illness should be an important concern of the psychiatric service of any university.”
Out on Fraternity Row, published in 1998, is an anthology of letters written to the authors containing personal accounts of being gay in college fraternities. To introduce the book the authors selected an anonymous letter they received commending their work on the topic. The anonymous author stated that they were part of Greek life and were only comfortable coming out to one person. This same person stated that that one of their fraternity brothers started to come to terms with their own sexuality and as more and more of their brothers found out it led to being ostracized by the group. The author of the letter later found out that this person had taken their life, and although it was noted that they believed that this factored into their losing their battle with suicide, there were other surrounding factors that led to him taking his own life.
CSUN, along with most other Cal State campuses, is set up to assist with resources and provide one-on-one conversations with a professional in the event that someone is having suicidal thoughts or is in crisis. Over the years CSUN has been committed to assisting students in their success on campus, which covers both their success in academics as well as their mental health. In the University Archives, College of Humanities Records, the University’s Counseling Center, now University Counseling Services, has taken the role in assisting campus affiliates with their mental health. This can be seen from their annual reports in the 1970s and through to 1995. In these records, in the late 80s, there were guides for faculty and students for assisting students and friends who were “emotionally distressed”. Today the University Counseling Services continues to make sure that campus affiliates have the ability to discuss these difficult topics with students and students’ friends openly.
Over time the topic of suicide has changed in the minds of the general public and researchers. Researchers have tried, and continue to try, to find trends and commonalities between the persons who commit suicide and the various factors in their lives such as their socialization, what they read and write, their personalities, and more. Fortunately, over the years there has been a lot of research relating to suicide and college campuses. Although researchers continue to write dissertations, books, and other texts on the subject of suicide, CSUN in particular is taking the honest approach on campus and making sure that people are both aware and ready to help in these situations and conversations.