In the wake of two suicides in the last three weeks at the University of Pennsylvania, college junior Jack Park reveals he, too, wanted to commit suicide, but says his failed attempt was part of a greater being’s plan for his life.
Freshmen Madison Holleran and sophomore Elvis Hatcher are the names of the two students who within the last three weeks at University of Pennsylvania resolved to end their life to ease their depression. As expected, these tragic events have re-ignited the conversation around the quality and quantity of mental health resources available to college students on campus. And while no one would argue that more counselors could potentially decrease the probability of student suicides, Jack Park, a college junior from Seoul, Korea, studying Urban Studies, is advocating for a more sustainable solution, one that requires changing the culture that leads to student suicides.
Park says campus suicides seem to happen in clusters, first at New York University, then at Cornell University and now his front door.
“Nobody is doing shit about this,” exclaims Park, during an exclusive on-campus interview with multi-media journalist and Penn senior, Ernest Owens. While Park praises Penn’s CAPS (Counseling and Physiological Services) program for having good intentions, he asserts: “counselors are great but they’re not your friends.”
A survivor of two suicide attempts, Park believes that if people on campus were nicer to each other and loved each other, talked to each other more and particularly weren’t so competitive and consumed by grades and outcomes, than students would feel more open to talk about their weakness and challenges.
“The only way to prevent depression from happening in the first place and ultimately prevent suicides is to be able to trust people that they will listen to your problems. You have to open up to your friends about your problems. At Penn – not everyone – but a lot of people don’t talk about their weakness because everyone seems so smart and they all seem to be in such a good place all time,” says Park.
“There’s love to be found on campus, but its not abundantly given to strangers,” says Owens, who tells me the only reason Park went on camera with him about his story is because they built a relationship a few years back while working on a video project. Owens, whose writings can be seen on The Huffington Post and USA Today, says he doesn’t usually do stories like these, but wanted to give Park a voice as he’s having the conversation that no one else is having.
Park says more love is the solution and Owens doesn’t disagree.
“Love gets underestimated at this campus,” shares Owens, an openly gay black male from Houston, Texas, who says he connected with Park’s story as he, too, is somewhat of a foreign student – given he emerged from a low-income southern community and now exists in an Ivy League environment.
Although never considering suicide, Owens, who was depressed when he first arrived as a freshman, recalls going to CAPS and says not only was there no diversity among the counselors, but they were “under staffed and didn’t meet the demands of students on campus.” As he suggested to Park in his article, Owens looked around campus for other resources and eventually reached out to the Chaplain, Charles Howard, a black man and former Penn student.
“He became a big mentor to me. Just talking to him was the motivation I needed. He’s been my mentor for all four years.”
Building friendships and relationships is the over-arching theme, but Owens remarks parents have a role to play in ending student suicides. As with his friend Park, students are often under pressure to live up to their parent’s expectations of greatness. The millennial newsmaker suggests that parents make an effort to show the versatility of their upbringings – meaning highlighting the bad and troublesome stories as well as the warm and fuzzy ones – and tell their young ones that even if they don’t achieve your expectations, that still love them.”
“As much as a parent’s dream can energize and invigorate their children, it can also depress and overwhelm them. It’s important for your kids to know if they fail it will be ok,” he says.
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Source: TBO Inc®
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