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Editorial: Combat Suicide with Meaning

September marks National Suicide Awareness month since its inception 15 years ago. Mental health has continued to make an impact on not only certain groups but entire generations.

Mental health arguably ranks as one of the most important issues for Gen-Z. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists South Dakota as having the fifth-highest suicide rate in the United States. Only New Mexico, Montana, Alaska and Wyoming have higher rates. 

Suicide rates have consistently risen in the United States over the past 20 years. The COVID-19 lockdown did not do the suicide numbers any favors. While suicide rates temporarily dipped in 2020, they spiked above pre-COVID-19 levels in 2021. 

Society is more connected through the internet and social media than it ever has been, but at the same time we are more isolated now than many previous generations. This is especially seen in the decline of committed romantic relationships. Nearly half (47%) of Americans aged 18-29 reported being single, including 62% of men aged 18-29 according to a Pew Research poll. Only 34% of women in the same age group reported being single. Moreover, 57% of single adults reported that they were not looking for relationships.    

We’re also less satisfied with our jobs than ever before: 39% of Americans aged 18-29 describe their jobs as ‘fulfilling,’ compared to 65% of seniors. Every one of us needs to do something giving us purpose, either in our jobs or another aspect of life.

Gen-Z reports being lonelier than previous generations. According to a Harvard research study in 2021, 61% of people aged 18-25 reported being ‘frequently’ lonely. Human beings are social creatures, as much as some may not want to admit. 

With higher rates of these societal trends, it’s not challenging to reasonably infer all of these factors negatively impact the suicide rate in the United States. Although we have many societal problems, suicide research and awareness has come a long way. In the early twentieth century, depression was “treated” on occasion by lobotomies. Thankfully, we do not remove part of someone’s brain to treat neurological disorders anymore and we have Struggling Teen Intervention programs available now.

We have many opportunities at USD to bring purpose and a sense of meaning into one’s life while keeping isolation at bay. There are dozens of clubs to join, where one can meet other like-minded people. 

USD has some different resources for mental health. One can also volunteer with different organizations such as Dakotathon. The student counseling center provides free counseling for students located in Dakota Hall. 
If you are having suicidal thoughts, you can contact the national suicide hotline by dialing 988. If you are at USD, you can email the Student Counseling Center at [email protected] to set up a meeting.