Suicide rates is on the rise on college campuses

Chasity Pugh

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Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among college and university students in the United States, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

Roughly 7.5 per 100,000 students commit suicide each year and nearly 1.5 out of every 100  students have actually attempted suicide.

Alicia Bourque, director of counseling services, said that we are facing a mental health crisis globally when it comes to suicide.

“National trends show that college students are less likely to attempt or commit suicide, when compared with the national average. However this remains a serious issue for all college and university communities,” Bourque said.

While there are various reasons why students commit suicide, John Draper, project director of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, social perfectionism and the pressures to succeed in life are common issues.

“In terms of pressures, one prominent aspect that leads to feeling suicidal is if people feel they aren’t valued, they don’t belong or feel disconnected from a community,” Draper said.

Bourque said that the pressures to succeed combined with the typical college workload can definitely take a toll on students and can possibly lead to thoughts of suicide.

“College is a time of exploration and discovery; a time to learn and find one’s grounding. Adapting to a new environment, getting good grades and working to identify a career path can put substantial pressure on students,” Bourque said.

According to Bourque, one method to prevent suicide is recognizing the signs.

“We encourage all of our students, faculty and staff to get informed about the signs of struggle and ask for help when needed – for themselves and for others,” Bourque said.

Risk factors can include emotional stress, marked changes in academic performance or behavior, alcohol or drug abuse and feelings of depression and anxiety.

Draper added that someone actively saying that they are thinking of committing suicide or doing any such harm to themselves should be taken seriously.

“When people say things such as ‘I want to die,’ ‘Life is not worth living anymore,’ ‘I won’t survive’ or ‘I want to kill myself,’ take those thoughts seriously,” Draper said. “If someone is hinting at suicide the best thing to do is ask them directly are they serious. They will be relieved to talk about it and will appreciate that you cared enough to check. If they should say yes,
help them.”

With the launch of Loyola’s Lift Up Loyola campaign, a movement focused on reviewing and highlighting Loyola’s mental health services, Bourque emphasized that asking for help or counseling is OK and should be encouraged.

“These national trends have trickled down into our own community, and we are working to arm our students, parents, faculty and staff with the support and resources they need to succeed academically, professionally and personally. We want to be proactive and have these difficult, yet courageous, conversations now, instead of following a tragedy,” said Bourque. “There is no shame in asking for support for yourself or someone you know. It’s a courageous thing to do.”

Loyola offers counseling for students by appointment Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and by telephone at 504-865-3835 24/7/365 as well as additional support services such as the Grief Process Group and Care and Concern Committee.

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