Psychiatry & Psychology--General/Suicide Paper



I’m writing a paper my English composition class (I’m currently enrolled in the local community college). The paper is about the relationship between suicide and academic stress. As a part of the assignment, we’re required to interview someone. I was hoping that you would be willing?

I would very much appreciate it. I look forward to hearing from you.


ANSWER: Someone in guidance or counseling at your college would be a better choice but if you're otherwise stuck, OK.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Hello, sir,

I wrote you a week ago, and I appreciate your willingness to let me interview you. Finding an interviewee as qualified and friendly as you isn’t easy. I’m writing an argumentative paper about the relationship between increased suicide rates among students and the change in today’s academics. Your input would be very helpful!

1. With a student, how does external stress – such as studying or doing homework or working – affect a person’s internal stress?

2. Why does one circumstance affect different students in different ways?

3. How do you discern a “cause” from a “trigger” when treating someone? Is it a chicken-and-egg dilemma?

4. Does part of the increasing rates of student suicides have to do with how today’s parenting styles are different from the parenting styles of previous generations?

5. Do new and modern, cultural views on success and failure change suicide rates?

Again, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. School can be really hard sometimes, but your answers would make all the difference!

I'll do my best, but all you can expect is a direct answer to the questions.

1. If the question asks if an external stressor makes a person feel stressed, the only general answer is "Like all responses, those to stress are individual, but of course stressors usually make the recipient feel stressed."  If the "how" asks exactly what are the mechanisms, you would have to clarify if you're asking about psychological, cultural, or neurophysiological mechanisms, and how much detail you wanted. But keep in mind that "stress" is not a literal term but rather a metaphor from engineering. That is, you can define, measure, and protect against the stress on a bridge, but the use of this term for unhappiness is really allegorical. Saying it another way, science can tell you lots about a stressed bone, less about a stressed brain.

2. Again, I don't know how much detail you want or are equipped to handle, but no two people are identical, genetically (identical twins excepted) or experientially.  If your teacher gave an instruction or announcement to the whole class, everybody would react slightly differently because they are all different people.   

3. There are many terms (such as cause, trigger, precipitating event, stimulus, instigator) that all refer to the same thing. It's not a chicken-egg thing, but merely a matter of synonyms.

4. This is a huge sociological question with no simple answer, and we don't know if the rate has increased. For instance, maybe in earlier times some suicides were termed "accidents" or "illnesses" because many suicides could not be buried at or by the church. If the rate is indeed higher now, there could be many reasons. One possibility is how easy it is today to suicide in a public manner, as if saying, "I'll kill myself, and then you'll be sorry."

5. I think this question is on to something: expectations were lower in the past, but for today's young people, it's easy to feel hard-done-by, jealous, resentful, frustrated.

All the best with your classes, and thanks for asking us.


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Alan Auerbach


Taught psychology for 30 years, authored four textbooks. Specialize in introductory and industrial/organizational psychology, but will tackle wider range of areas.

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