Depression

Preventing Suicide on College Campuses


By Rebecca A. Clay
College can be a stressful time, and the numbers bear that out. The American College Health Association’s 2006 National College Health Assessment found that 94 percent of the college and university students surveyed reported that they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do. Forty-four percent confessed that they had felt so depressed it was difficult to function. And 18 percent had a depressive disorder.

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2008, young adults age 18 to 25 were more likely than adults age 26 to 49 to have had serious thoughts of suicide (6.7 percent vs. 3.9 percent).

By Rebecca A. Clay
College can be a stressful time, and the numbers bear that out. The American College Health Association’s 2006 National College Health Assessment found that 94 percent of the college and university students surveyed reported that they felt overwhelmed by everything they had to do. Forty-four percent confessed that they had felt so depressed it was difficult to function. And 18 percent had a depressive disorder.

According to SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health, in 2008, young adults age 18 to 25 were more likely than adults age 26 to 49 to have had serious thoughts of suicide (6.7 percent vs. 3.9 percent).

These statistics underscore why Prevention of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness—including suicide prevention—is the first of eight Strategic Initiatives that will guide SAMHSA’s work through 2014 (see Suicide Prevention: Top Priority for SAMHSA and the Nation).

“Suicide is a preventable tragedy for college students, their families, and our communities,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., noting the importance of education about depression, substance abuse, and other suicide risk factors, as well as resources such as SAMHSA’s National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. “By working on suicide prevention on campuses and elsewhere, we can save thousands of lives.”

For college students, they need all the support they can get. The bad economy is adding to students’ stress about debt and job prospects once they graduate. A 2010 Higher Education Research Institute study of more than 200,000 freshmen entering 4-year colleges found that their emotional health had declined to the lowest level since the annual survey began 25 years ago.

The Campus Suicide Prevention Grants program is one way SAMHSA is working to achieve that goal. The 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. (See East Tennessee University: Reaching Students Online, University of Guam: Transforming a Legend, and Boston University: Revealing Secrets Can Help Students for three campus grantees.)

The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is taking action on a broader scale (see Action Alliance Identifies Three High-Risk Populations for Suicide Prevention Efforts). With this public/private partnership, Ms. Hyde and other leaders from Government, business, the advocacy community, and other groups work together to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention.

For more information about SAMHSA’s suicide prevention activities, visit http://www.samhsa.gov/prevention/suicide.aspx. SAMHSA News online (Archives) also offers an extensive list of related articles.

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