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Recent death raises issue of student suicide

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suicideBy Sadie Scott
A&E Editor

Students and faculty at Cuesta College recently learned that a nursing student had unexpectedly died — in what authorities have ruled as a suicide.

Shaina Joy Abrams, age 25, had been attending Cuesta College since spring of 2009.

“The sun shines dimmer these days, and the edges of our hearts are torn and bruised in her absence but Shaina’s irrefutable energy, and her unedited joy and irresistible charm, are timely and timeless,” Abrams’ obituary stated.

Sgt. Jay Wells with the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s department confirmed that Abrams’ death was a suicide. According to the family, no drugs or alcohol were involved. Toxicology reports are pending.

One of Abrams’ former teachers said he “was saddened to hear the news.”

“She always offered a unique and powerful perspective that sparked discussion in the classroom and made even my most mundane of lectures interesting,” said Matthew Fleming, an English professor at Cuesta.

Suicide is the leading cause of death among college and university students in the United States according to Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC).

“It’s important for students to know how important mental wellness is,” said Joan Duffy, services coordinator for the campus Health Center. “They can always come to us first,” Duffy said.

All students who are registered for classes at the SLO and/or NC campuses are eligible to receive services, such as crisis intervention, at the Student Health Center, including up to six free personal counseling visits, according to Duffy.

However, the financially strapped center, is only able to offer mental health services 18 hours per week, Duffy said. These services are paid for by the Academic Counseling general fund, she added.

“There are a few gaps that we are working hard to fill,” Duffy said. Health services has and will continue seek additional funding sources to serve the mental health needs for our college as we realize the needs are great,” she said.

Experts say to watch for the following warning signs: when someone threatens to end his or her life; implies that he or she will not be around in the future; exhibits an extreme amount of self-dissatisfaction; and/ or falls into period of deep depression.

The campus Health Center suggests the following: Be aware of others around you, whether it is it is a friend, acquaintance, neighbor or even a stranger on the street. Paying attention and helping someone in need can mean the world to them.

The brochure also states: “Take time to listen, the simple act of showing you care can make the difference between a person attempting suicide or seeking help.”

It’s important to “become as educated as possible about suicide,” said Duffy.

There have been over 130 empathetic letters sent to the Abrams family.

When contacted by The Cuestonian, Mrs. Abrams said she was still recovering from the loss of her daughter and declined to comment.

The Student Health Center and the Counseling office are available for grief support counseling for those faculty, staff, and students who may need support during this difficult time.  HOSPICE (San Luis Obispo (805) 544-2266 or North County (805)  226-5641) also offers grief counseling which is open to the general public.

SLO HOTLINE, (800) 783-0607, is available 24-7 for mental health support, resources and suicide prevention lifeline. It is free and confidential.