The second-leading cause of death in college students is suicide, according to suicide.org. That means that this year, more than 1,100 students will commit suicide. The suicide rate for 15-24 year olds has increased 200 percent in the past 50 years. What might be a surprise to most people is that 90 percent of people who complete suicides are white students.
According to the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, suicide is a public health issue. It is a public health issue that stems from a mental health issue. Many times we are not linking our health issues to mental health wellness. A shift in your appetite, having new skin issues, problems concentrating and anxious thoughts are important things to notice in yourself and those around you.
College students coming to campuses across the country need more mental health support. There are 25 percent of college students feeling anxious and the numbers go up every year. Why are we all on edge? This might be to the McDonald’s-ization of our country. Everything is open 24 hours a day. There is no holiday that is sacred. Leisure time is dedicated to texting and playing the latest Playstation game.
As Americans we live overcommitted lives compared to other countries. A study by Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers, professors at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, showed happiness in the United States has dropped in the past 30 years. The authors point out a series of factors that mirror the ones we should monitor as people concerned about suicide prevention.
Loss in jobs, relationship issues, family abuse, the list is endless. These factors can be divided into two categories – risk factors and warning signs. Risk factors make an individual more susceptible to suicidal thinking and behavior. Warning signs are factors that may signal that an individual has become suicidal.
Mental illness is often heightened by a common theme on college campuses – drinking. Alcohol and mental illness is a bad combination with sometimes deadly consequences. Many people with depression drink, or use drugs, to relieve their symptoms. They reduce inhibitions and increase risk-taking, possibly increasing self-destructiveness. This will lead to poor choices.
If you notice a friend getting more out of hand, you cannot just blame it on the alcohol, like Jamie Foxx tells us to do. We have to be mindful that this may be systemic of some other issues. If a friend is more violent or more sexual when drinking, there might be some other things going on in their lives that we just do not know about.
We know that men commit suicide more than four times as often as women, but women attempt suicide about three times as often as men, according to Suicide.org. For young adults ages 15-19, five times as many males as females commit suicide. Suicide and suicidal behaviors come from a complex interaction among social (family, peer group, cultural), individual (psychological, genetic, biological) and environmental influences.
College as a rite of passage becomes a place where so many risk factors are raised. There are people equipped to help. There is gateway training available so you can learn to know the signs and be assertive about your community instead of passive.
A university website, reach.osu.edu, is about suicide prevention. If we can frame suicide as a public health issue, it means it is a community issue. We can all equip ourselves to know the signs and help the people who are suffering around us. As we get ready for finals and projects, keep one eye on your work and one eye on your friends.