Suicide rates outnumber homicides

By Dan Harrington

Imagine the impact to the City College community if half the current student body disappeared. Certainly their peers would try to keep them from leaving.

In reality, nearly that many Americans die every year by taking their own lives.

Mark Stalnaker, suicide prevention coordinator of the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, spoke to veterans and guests at the Veterans Lounge in Cloud Hall at City College’s Ocean campus on April 18. He was invited by the City College Veterans Resource Center.

“Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the whole U.S. population,” Stalnaker said. “There are 37,000 to 38,000 suicides a year.”

He explained that the homicide rate is around half that, even though it might seem otherwise.

“Homicide is dramatic, while suicide is silent. It is a major health concern,” he said.

Caucasian and Native American males show a higher propensity for suicides than other groups, especially as they age, according to the statistics presented. Veterans also make up a large percentage of suicides.

“Roughly one in five Americans who commit suicide are veterans,” Stalnaker said. “22 veterans die a day of suicide.”

Research shows that men have a much higher rate of completed suicides, while women make more attempts. That is because men are more likely to use more lethal means, such as firearms, than other ways such as drug overdoses.

Stalnaker encouraged the audience to ask caring but direct questions of someone who might be contemplating suicide and encourage them seek support.

“Decades of research shows that asking about suicidality doesn’t cause someone to commit suicide any more than asking about chest pain causes heart attacks,” Stalnaker said.  City College student and Army veteran Arthur Gotera thought the discussion could be helpful to students.

“Some people might need resources for stress from school, how to approach it and reduce it,” Gotera said. “The consultation process and resources on and off campus can bring out some awareness for stress conditions.”

Aundray Rogers, president of Veterans Resource Center and the CCSF Veterans Alliance, suggested people also take a look at an online presentation at www.thenextchallenge.net for more information about suicide prevention in the veteran community.
For immediate help, San Francisco Suicide Prevention offers crisis assistance in several languages at (415) 781-0500. Veterans or those concerned about a veteran can call a Veterans Affairs crisis line at (800) 273-TALK, visit an emergency room or call 911.

For psychological advice or appointments, City College students can call Student Health Services at (415) 239-3110. Student veterans are encouraged to call the Veterans Outreach Program at (415) 239-3018.

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