College Students, Stress and Suicide

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A student fell from the third floor bridge of this building on the CSU San Bernardino campus. (Photo: Lacey Kendall)

A student fell from the third floor bridge of this building on the CSU San Bernardino campus. (Photo: Lacey Kendall)

"People were talking about the level of stress the girl must've been under," said Graham Kaplan, a 24-year old student of California State University San Bernardino.

On October 27th, the Coyote Chronicle reported that 21-year-old Cordie Natasha Zahra fell from a third floor bridge of Jack Brown Hall on the California State University San Bernardino campus. She died two days later from her injuries. Zahra was an outstanding student with a GPA of 3.978. She was a President’s Academic Excellence Scholar, Joe Baca Foundation scholarship recipient, graduate of the 2011 Leadership Academy, student mentor in the Faculty Student Mentor Program and a member of the Coyote Nurses. She had many friends that loved and respected her. It appeared that Zahra had much to live for.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students according to Suicide.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention and awareness of suicide.

It is not clear whether this was an attempted suicide or just a call for help or simply an accident. But it was a shock for the Cal State campus. Students, like Graham Kaplan, attempted to understand the incident by looking at their own stress levels. Listen to Kaplan talk about his thoughts on suicide:

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"Students often seek help for stress related conditions such as sleep apnea or deprivation or problems focusing," according to Yvonne Wren, Assistant Clinic Manager at the student health center at Loma Linda University. "At LLU, we have a behavioral medical center where we send students if they exhibit signs of suicidal tendencies or depression." Every quarter, up to five students are referred to the behavioral center.

Ellen Reibling, Ph.D., former Director of Health Education at UC Irvine said if you think someone you know needs help, there are steps you can take. “Please help them find a professional counselor," Reibling urged. "The best thing you can do is to help them get treatment. They may be are struggling with a mental illness that is untreated.”

One of the ways we can decrease the stigma of mental illness is to encourage people to seek help. Facebook recently established a referral service and chat line for friends who are worried about others.

“Most kids who attempt suicide have shared their intention with someone and that is their cry for help," said Reibling.

Sid Robinson,  Associate Vice President for Public Affairs at CSU San Bernardino, says the college offers students access to the University’s Student Health and Psychological Counseling Services Center. This access “is available to assist anyone at the university seeking counseling” and is staffed by professional health and counseling specialists who either provide treatment or recommend outside assistance. Programs like these may be funded with grants from the government in response to the overwhelming suicide statistics.

In 2004 President George W. Bush signed the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act, the first legislation to provide federal funds for suicide prevention on campuses. Funds provided by this act are used to provide education and assistance for students who are at risk for depression.

Joe Gutierrez, CSU San Bernardino spokesman, says the University has applied for Garrett Lee Smith funding for the upcoming year.

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About Bobbi Albano

Roberta (Bobbi) Albano was raised in the San Joaquin Valley, moving to the Inland Empire in 1996. She settled in San Bernardino where she raised her two boys, bought a home and fell in love with the people and the community. Bobbi is working toward her MBA in Health Care Administration from the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University. Bobbi has worked for the County of San Bernardino and currently works for Loma Linda University. Her experience working with and for the people of San Bernardino broadens her perspective of social issues and their effect on her community. Her close relationship with Loma Linda University enables her to have access to the most respected professionals in the health field. She is excited about bringing her experience, resources and love of her community to KQED's Our State of Health.

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