By Spencer Cadogan
DMACC Honors Student
Have you ever followed someone on Twitter, or liked their Instagram posts, but are too afraid to talk to them in person? Have you ever related to someone’s Facebook status, but won’t go out of your way to show your sympathy to them in person?
As we surround ourselves with social media, texts and comments have become insincere and meaningless. The world has gotten smaller, but many people continue to struggle with loneliness even as they interact with others through social media. Persistent feelings of loneliness can lead to depression. According to Dr. Louise Hawkley, a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago, “Although depression doesn’t always lead to loneliness, feeling lonely is often a predictor of depression…” This is particularly important for college students because nearly “one-third of college students had difficulty functioning in the last 12 months due to depression” (Amy Novotney).
College can be a particularly stressful time in people’s lives. As a result, studies have found that “suicide is the second-leading cause of death among 20 to 24-year-olds” and “the suicide rate peaks among young adults (ages 20–24)” (Neumann University). These two factors when combined can have a tragic impact on the college community.
One of the issues we must confront before helping others is to overcome the feeling of being overwhelmed with the amount of tasks we have been handed that many of us have. These feelings block us from acting while our peers face crises alone. Among the variety of factors that lead to our inaction include feeling rushed to fulfill our responsibilities in school, work, our families, as well as being tired after the stress that comes with life in college. Or we may feel unconfident and feel that our reaching out to people we don’t know may backfire and we will be rejected. Another issue is that we may forget that some people need us to be their friend. Ideally, we would have the time, energy, and confidence to talk to people that we don’t know who are alone but don’t seem to be studying at DMACC.
In overcoming these barriers to helping others, we must keep in mind that being sympathetic to others does not take much effort on our part. Everyone needs to know others care about him or her, and it is clear that we have the responsibility to reach out and support others to show that we care. Some people do not have as many friends as they need, and we can all help improve upon the lives of others.
Those who feel lonely do not need major actions to let them know that they are acknowledged and cared for simply because they share a connection that bonds us together through shared experience.
So what are some ways in which we can become more aware of those who are struggling around us, or that we can illustrate our concern for those around us?
To become more aware of those around us, we must live our lives in such a way that we become perceptive to the needs of those with which we come in contact. Just as we are mindful of our surroundings while driving, we can become mindful of those around us who are in need of support. More specifically, we can put our phone down when we are around others. Unless our phone is necessary for our daily tasks (ex. being on call as an emergency medical technician), we can keep our phones out of our hands when in public.
Once we can develop an awareness for those around us, we can begin actively participating in ways that show that we care. Among the various ways in which you can support your peers is through small actions such as holding the door open for someone, helping someone who is carrying a lot, and even saying hello to someone you don’t know are all ways of showing that another person is recognized as our equal. Another way that you can help your peers is by becoming friends with them, and getting to know them better. This may help them to feel better connected to DMACC and feel more welcome than if we do not act friendly towards them. Furthermore, you can learn more about depression and other mental illnesses related to suicide. By recognizing the symptoms and warning signs associated with thinking about suicide, one can be better prepared to help those in need. Be willing to talk seriously with your friends if they are thinking about suicide, and support your friends in getting medical assistance to help treat mental illness. If you believe that someone you know needs support or is considering suicide, “ask direct questions and point out behavior patterns that concern you” (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance). Remind them that you care about them and offer to help them receive medical assistance. We can also learn how to handle crises and how to recognize that the people we care about are experiencing a crisis. DMACC also provides access to Kognito’s At Risk for Students, a free online program that students can use to learn how to help those in need of outreach, as well as for students who would like to learn more about how to help their friends who are struggling to feel supported, as well as teaching students how to have conversations with friends and peers about mental health and how to encourage them to seek help. Link to Kognito’s At Risk for Students: https://www.dmacc.edu/counseling/Pages/kognito.aspx
Spencer Cadogan is an Ankeny and Boone Campus DMACC Honors student. He is graduating in December 2017. Following graduation, Spencer will serve a two-year religious mission where he will be located in Minneapolis, Minnesota for the first few months. After these few months, Spencer may be relocated to a different area in the United States. Spencer plans to return to school in January 2020 where he will earn a double major in United States History and Political Science.