Crisis on Campus: the Untold Story of Student Suicides

Crisis

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Hard numbers:
6 % of undergraduates and 4 percent of graduate students in 4-year colleges have “seriously considered attempting suicide” in the past year—and nearly half of each group did not tell anyone.
3X: The suicide rate among young adults, ages 15-24, has tripled since the 1950s and Suicide is currently the 2nd most common cause of death among college students.
1,100: number of suicides that occur at colleges every year – that’s roughly 7.5 per 100,000 students. 1 in 12: number of college students who have actually made a suicide plan at some point 1.5: number of college students out of every 100 who have actually attempted it.
2X as many young men, ages 20-24, commit suicide, compared with young women.
In the past 50 years, the suicide rate for those age 15-24 increased by over 200%.
12 people aged 15-24 will commit suicide today – that is one about every two hours.

Demographics:

Caucasians account for over 90% of all completed suicides.
2X: though Caucasians are twice as likely to commit suicide as African Americans; the rate of suicide is growing faster among young African Americans than among Caucasians.
Suicide rates from 1980-1995 increased 93% for African American females (age 15-24) and 214% for African American males (age 15-24).
Native Americans have the highest suicide rate among all 15-24 year olds.
Asian American women have the highest suicide rates among women ages 15 to 24.
Men commit suicide more than four times as often as women, but women attempt suicide about three times as often as men.
Suicide by firearm is the most common method for both men and women.

FACT: The emotional health of college freshmen — who feel buffeted by the recession and stressed by the pressures of high school — has declined to the lowest level since an annual survey of incoming students started collecting data 25 years ago.
The percentage of students who said their emotional health was above average fell to 52 percent.
It was 64 percent in 1985.

Campus stress producers
• Cost: Financial pressure, tuition plus room and board, is a huge stress-inducer.
• Competitiveness: How academically rigorous is the school?
• Acceptance rate: More competitive schools generally produce a more competitive student body.
• Crime on campus: is it safe?
• It’s the economy, stupid: has added to the stress, not just because of financial pressures on their parents but also because the students are worried about their own college debt and job prospects when they graduate.

5 Most Stressful Universities
5. Northwestern University Undergraduate Enrollment: 9,660 Total Price per Year: $58,829 Percent of Students Receiving Financial Aid: 51 percent Average Amount of Financial Aid: $23,337 Average of Financial Aid as Percentage of Total Price: 49 percent Percent of Applicants Admitted: 23 percent Crime Rank (among top 25): 23
4. Harvard University Undergraduate Enrollment: 10,277 Total Price per Year: $56,000 Percent of Students Receiving Financial Aid: 47 percent Average Amount of Financial Aid: $33,276 Average of Financial Aid as Percentage of Total Price: 59 percent Percent of Applicants Admitted: 6 percent Crime Rank (among top 25): 13
3. Columbia University in the City of New York Undergraduate Enrollment: 8,184 Total Price per Year: $59,208 Percent of Students Receiving Financial Aid: 50 percent Average Amount of Financial Aid: $31,796 Average of Financial Aid as Percentage of Total Price: 54 percent Percent of Applicants Admitted: 10 percent Crime Rank (among top 25):
2. University of Pennsylvania Undergraduate Enrollment: 11,852 Total Price per Year: $57,360 Percent of Students Receiving Financial Aid: 50 percent Average Amount of Financial Aid: $25,952 Average of Financial Aid as Percentage of Total Price: 45 percent Percent of Applicants Admitted: 12 percent Crime Rank (among top 25): 9
1. Washington University in St Louis Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,303 Total Price per Year: $58,901 Percent of Students Receiving Financial Aid: 50 percent Average Amount of Financial Aid: $23,963 Average of Financial Aid as Percentage of Total Price: 41 percent Percent of Applicants Admitted: 17 percent Crime Rank (among top 25): 6

Sizing up the risk factors include:
Prior history of suicidal behavior
Family history of suicide or suicide attempts
Suicidal behavior of a friend or colleague
Mental health problems like depression or substance abuse
Family history of depression or substance abuse
Easy access to lethal methods (like firearms)
Interpersonal isolation
Impulsive, aggressive or antisocial behaviors
History of abuse or family violence
Some common warning signs are when student:
Talks about suicide, death or having no reason to live
Is preoccupied with death and dying
Has trouble eating or sleeping
Experiences drastic changes in behavior
Withdraws from friends or social activities
Loses interest in hobbies, work, school, etc
Prepares for death by making out a will and final arrangements
Gives away prized possessions
Takes unnecessary risks
Relationship difficulties including a recent loss or threat of significant loss
Loses interest in their personal appearance
Increases their use of alcohol or drugs
Expresses a sense of hopelessness
Is faced with a situation of humiliation or failure
Performance difficulties
Legal or financial trouble
Is unwilling to “connect” with potential helpers

In America, someone attempts suicide once every minute, and someone completes a suicide once every 17 minutes. Throughout the world, approximately 2,000 people kill themselves each day.

What can parents do?
Stay in touch with your college kid. Freshmen especially need to know that the family support they relied on through childhood is still there, even long distance
Chat by phone, IM or Skype
Send care packages
Visit occasionally
Be a calming voice when things get rough
Do not undervalue the importance of sleep, diet, exercise and de-stressing activities
Familiarize yourself with the student health and mental health services available on campus, so you can remind your child of the support available on campus
Be sensitive to the signs of stress
What is being done to combat college student suicide:
The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA) is the first piece of legislation to provide federal funds specifically for youth, adolescent and college age suicide prevention. Included in the bill is $31 million for over five years to fund the matching-grant programs for colleges and universities to help raise awareness about youth suicide
The Campus Suicide Prevention Grants program supports colleges and universities in their efforts to prevent suicide among students and to enhance services for students with depression, substance abuse, and other behavioral health problems that put them at risk of suicide.
The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is taking action on a broader scale. With this public/private partnership, leaders from Government, business, the advocacy community, and other groups are working together to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.
National Graduate Student Crisis Line, offers immediate help for grads in crisis
1-800-GRAD-HLP
(1-800-472-3457)

Sources:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/04/04/the-50-most-stressful-colleges.html
http://www.nabita.org/documents/NewDataonNatureofSuicidalCrisis.pdf
http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/galleries/2012/08/05/college-rankings-2012-most-stressful-schools-photos.html#slide_3
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/education/27colleges.html?_r=0
Suicide statistics taken from numbers provided by the American College Health Association (ACHA)
http://youngadults.about.com/od/healthandsafety/a/5signsstress.htm
http://www.stateuniversity.com/blog/permalink/Suicide-and-Suicidal-Behaviors-Among-College-Students.html
http://facts.randomhistory.com/2009/07/15_suicide.html

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