Suicide On Campus
"When students share their desperation and thoughts of taking their own lives, we must listen, understand, offer hope and humane counsel, and guide them to care."
Suicide has consistently been shown to be the third leading cause of death among adolescents and young adults, following only accidents and homicide. University students have reliably been shown to have a suicide rate about half that of an age-controlled cohort of non-university-affiliated young people.
Recently, the marked increase in demand for campus mental health services, and litigation brought in the wake of student suicides in other states, have contributed to a national conversation regarding the responsibilities of colleges and universities for preventing suicide and assisting students following non-fatal suicide attempts or threats.
In the United States, about 1100 students die by suicide each year. The resultant rate has been put at 7.5 deaths by suicide per 100,000 of population. This rate predicts that a campus the size of UM may experience 1 or 2 student deaths per year, deaths that may have been preventable. Sadly, the experience of the past several years has been consistent with this sobering prediction. It is also true that for every suicide death there are many more serious attempts that require treatment, and still more that go unreported. And the rate of serious contemplation of suicide by students has been pegged at about 10%, a finding consistent with the reports of UM students.
On campuses as elsewhere, women attempt suicide much more frequently than men, but men, often choosing irreversible means, die at a much higher rate. Older students are, by and large, at greater risk than younger students.
The key point is that when students share their desperation and thoughts of taking their own lives, we must listen, understand, offer hope and humane counsel, and guide them to care.