Suicide takes the life of roughly 1,100 college students per year. It’s the second leading cause of death for college age youth, second only to accidental death (1). On January 16th, Washington State University (WSU) lost their football quarterback, Tyler Hilinski, to suicide. Hilinski was only 21 years old (2).
Lori Miller, a counselor at Seattle Central College explains that studies of people who die by suicide show that too often they do not reach out for professional help due to stigma and other factors such as access to treatment. That’s why suicide prevention experts increasingly advocate widespread training so everyone knows the warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide (3).
“We’re seeing more and more students with depression, with mental health issues,” said Miller. “The need is up but the resources are down. Suicide today is a public health crisis and one that we really need to be more vocal in talking about it.”
According to a 2016-17 study by the Healthy Minds Network, 21 percent of students had engaged in non-suicidal self-injury and 11 percent of students had suicidal thoughts over the past year. Per that same survey, 27 percent of students are unaware of where to go on their campus to seek professional help for their mental or emotional health (4).
Colleges around the country have increased efforts in recent years to combat the mental health challenges facing students. Universities have worked to prevent suicide on campuses through efforts that fall into a few key categories: increased counseling and mental health professional staffing, increased suicide prevention awareness, and resource allocation toward suicide prevention efforts (4).
Due to a rise in faculty referring students and more students signing up for their own mental health services, the number of students seeking appointments at their counseling centers has grown by an average of 30 percent, which is five times the average rate of enrollment growth. While these changes are in the right direction, campuses still have a long way to go in battling suicide.
With institutions and states shining light on prevention awareness and providing more help and resources on campus, we can only hope to see a decline in suicide on college campuses in the coming years. To learn more about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, visit: http://www.13minutes.org/
Jill Hamilton, Senior Project Coordinator, The Kim Foundation, http://www.thekimfoundation.org/
Jill Hamilton has been a Project Coordinator at The Kim Foundation since 2014. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and a Speech Communication Minor from The University of Nebraska at Omaha in 2009. Since working at the foundation, she has become an active member of the Nebraska State Suicide Prevention Coalition and The Metro Area Suicide Prevention Coalition, Nebraska LOSS Advisory Committee, The Early Childhood Mental Health Coalition, is Chair of the Nebraska LOSS Teams Conference Planning Committee, and serves as the Outreach Coordinator for the Metro Area LOSS Team.