Difficult conversation surrounding suicide

"This is their life — this is very real"
Posted at 6:31 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 18:37:31-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “It’s so important to take action if you are worried about someone who may be in trouble,” remarked Timothy Gordon, Vice President, Student Affairs, SUNY Buffalo State.


The Buffalo State campus now in mourning over the apparent death by suicide of student Saniyya Dennis.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 34.

Gordon teared up as he described how difficult it has been for campus community and the young woman's family.

“This has been an amazingly difficult — as a parent — I have a very difficult time and had been struggling all day because I can't imagine what they've been going through,” Gordon said.

The campus provides mental health counseling.

Gordon says Buff State has a “strong demand” with more than 4,300 students making counseling appointments in the last several months.

Mental health counseling continues to be in high need on college campuses.

Missy Stolfi, area director, Western & Central New York Chapters, American Foundation for Suicide prevention.

“For young people — this is their life — this is very real,” declared Missy Stolfi, area director, Western & Central New York Chapters, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“We all have situations in our lives that will influence our mental health," stated Jessica Pirro, CEO, Crisis Services.

This is Mental Health Awareness Month and the very tragic loss of the Buff State student opens a conversation in our community about a topic that carries a stigma.

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Jessica Pirro, CEO, Crisis Services.

“We know it can be really scary and frightening to have these conversations but we also know that conversation could really help pivot a situation,” Pirro said.

Mental health professionals say suicide rates among youth is far too prevalent and we need to watch for warning signs.

“And if somebody is expressing thoughts that you know they are feeling more desperate — that they're feeling more hopeless, it is okay to ask directly about suicide — to ask if that's what's going on,” described Stolfi.

Both experts say there is no one single cause when it comes to suicide. That it is multiple factors and if someone is expressing suicidal thoughts, the best thing is to stay calm, let them know you are listening to support them and do not be judgmental in that moment.

“To be really mindful of the needs of that individual in that moment and there isn't a cookie cutter approach to this,” Pirro explained. “The more we can be supportive and compassionate — none judgmental — the more that we can hear what's somebody’s saying and listen to what they are saying.”

Buff State says it will be continue to reach out to all students and especially those who were close to Saniyya.

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Timothy Gordon, Vice President, Student Affairs, SUNY Buffalo State.

“We are doing our best to make sure we support our student community, any of the students, certainly we start with a structure where we work with students who had a direct connection to Saniyya and then continue to build that out to support the whole community,” noted Gordon. “I hope that folks are also putting all their energy and positive thoughts in the world to support Saniyya's family.”

A Zoom vigil is expected to be held by the campus Friday in Saniyya’s memory.

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Outside Crisis Services in Buffalo.

Important Phone Numbers
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, the following resources are available 24/7:
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
  • Crisis Services (local) 716-834-3131
  • Trans Lifeline 1-877-565-8860
  • Trans Lifeline Canada 1-877-330-6366