As Student Suicides Mount, Focus is On Prevention


As student suicides mount nationwide, the debate over how best to deal with the mental health of students on college campuses is growing louder.

With over 1,000 suicides occurring on college campuses each year, suicides are the second-leading cause of death for college-age people.  Further research has determined that 7% of undergraduate and graduate students consider committing suicide each year.

A large number college students are reporting being more depressed and anxious than had previously been the case.  In many cases, these students are waiting for weeks for appointments with college counseling centers.

“We know that colleges have actually increased their staffing and increased their budgets in many, many cases,” said Dr. Victor Schwartz, the medical director for the JED Foundation and the former medical director of counseling services at New York University. “It hasn’t kept up with the demand. As much as they seem to increase, students are coming in. There does seem to be a very, very large need.”

The Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors reports that on average, 10% of the student body are seen by college mental health centers, although the number changes greatly by individual schools.

While many universities are hiring additional staff for these centers to meet the increasing demand, budget gaps mean that in many cases students must foot the bill through rising tuition costs, writes Melissa Korn for The Wall Street Journal.

The cause of this influx is largely unknown.  However, Dr. Allison Baker, a child psychiatrist with the Child Mind Institute, believes that because more younger people are receiving mental health treatment as children, it is allowing them to attend college, whereas they may not have been able to before.

Meanwhile, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, author of “Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be: An Antidote to the College Admissions Mania,” reported that many college administrators felt students today are less resilient and adaptable than the students of the past.  Many are blaming over-involved parenting styles.

“There’s an intense economic anxiety… that filters from parents to kids and has a whole generation of kids worried about what their future is going to hold,” Bruni said. “And then you have this kind of parenting and this kind of atmosphere that often exists in certain communities right now where kids are following this very exacting script through high school that their parents have written for them. And then they get to college and they’re on their own in a very real way for the first time. And the script isn’t there for them.”

In order to cope with this, a number of college counseling centers are requiring these students to participate in a “resilience workshop” before receiving treatment from counselors.  Students learn basic coping skills and how to “self soothe” after typical setbacks experienced in college, such as bad grades.