Thousands gather for UW student who committed suicide



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Posted on October 8, 2010 at 2:45 PM

Updated Saturday, Oct 9 at 12:26 PM

Candlelight vigil for Carly Henley

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SEATTLE - A sea of mourners surrounded the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity house on the University of Washington campus Friday night. Thousands of students were feeling the emotional impact of a young woman who decided to take her own life.

"It makes you realize in the experience and the shock of it all that a happy girl can make the choice," says student Kelsey Kent. "It really teaches you you have to reach out."

"A little bit goes a long way," says another student Amanda Humphries.

Carly Henley's death was ruled a suicide. She was found Wednesday in a back stairwell outside the Phi Delta Theta fraternity. Henley lived in the Delta Gamma house.

Henley was a junior majoring in women's studies. She was also a singer and songwriter who  played guitar at venues in Seattle and at 909 Coffee and Wine in Burien where she worked during the summer. Some of Carly's songs are posted on YouTube.

Suicide is a serious issue on college campuses. According to the American College Health Association, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than all medical illnesses combined. Experts say the suicide rate peaks among young adults ages 20-24.

The executive director of Crisis Clinic hopes this incident will open a dialogue between family and friends.

"You need to say 'Gee, I noticed you seem a little depressed' or 'you seem sad,'" says Kathleen Southwick. "'Is there something I can do?'"

Southwick says 35,000 people commit suicide in this country every year. The cause for most cases is untreated depression.

Southwick says don't be afraid to ask a blunt question.

"In that conversation, if you think someone is considering suicide, you maybe need to ask the question, 'Are you thinking of killing yourself?' Because people need to hear that straight out."

With several recent high-profile suicides, more people are trying to raise awareness of it as a public health issue. One local church is holding a 24- hour prayer vigil on the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, where many have taken their own lives.

"They get on this bridge and for whatever the reason they feel like acting on those impulses," says Chad Duke, of the Divine Christian Ministries. "Our job is to bring hope to the hopeless to bring the right message to those people who actually need it."

What can parents do to help their college students? Experts say the most important thing is to stay in touch, especially with freshman students who are out of the house for the first time. Parents can also send care packages and visit occasionally. And parents should know what student health and mental health services are on campus, so you can remind your child of the support available.

The number for the Crisis Clinic is 866-4CRISIS. Counselors are there for those who are thinking of suicide or for friends and family members who are concerned for loved ones. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-talk. Learn more about the warning signs of suicide at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

Other suicide prevention resources:

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Suicide Prevention Resource Center