Suicide: The leading cause of death among college students

Knowing the triggers can help prevent suicide

Active Minds Club on COD Campus display: Each backpack represents a life lost to suicide each year on College Campuses around the U.S. (Lucinda Perez/The Chaparral)

by Karren Mitchell 
Student Contributor 

AIDS. West Nile Virus. Flu. These are the diseases we hear about most frequently, but none of those are the leading killer of College students.  It is Suicide.

“Over 1100 college students commit suicide each year,” said Cynthia Llewelyn-Price, the marriage and family counselor working temporarily at the Cravens Student Health Services.

She said The Active Minds Club at COD set up a demonstration early this semester to illustrate the huge number of deaths due to suicide each year on college campuses.  They placed 1,100 backpacks near the campus fountain.  Each backpack represents the loss of one life to suicide.

Ms. Llewelyn-Price said Active Minds Club is part of a national organization dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues among college students.  The local COD Club meets twice a month to deal with issues and raise awareness of resources available on campus.

If you combine automobile accidents with drug and alcohol related traffic accidents then suicide drops to the number 2 cause of death among college students, but either way these results are shocking.

In a 2012 survey of 228 counselors by the American College Counseling Association, more than three out of four counselors reported an increase in psychological crises requiring an immediate intervention.

The reasons for this high rate of suicide on campuses are varied.  Some are caused by the college experience and others are physical or even genetic.

The National Institute of Health ranks depression as the leading cause of the high incidence of suicide on college campuses.

Students are often living away from home for the first time.  They may feel isolated, alone and experience homesickness.  Students may experience conflict in their relationships at home or at school.  They may also experience stress from the increased work load at school or have financial concerns.  Many students work while going to school which increases the stress levels they are experiencing.

Abuse of alcohol or drugs can cause depression. Many students who are away from home fall into the trap of socializing with new friends at parties where alcohol and drugs are readily available.  These can also increase the incidence of risky sexual encounters.  These behaviors can further lead to a feeling of isolation and guilt.

Males and females both can experience violence and another shocking statistic is that homicide is the third leading cause of death among college students. Risky sexual behavior can lead to violent sexual encounters, leaving the victim sometimes feeling responsible, isolated or guilty.  All of those experiences and feelings can lead to depression.

Technology, which is an amazing tool for increased productivity and communication, can also lead to depression by isolating the students from potential friends as well as leading to sleep deprivation if used excessively.

The most tragic part of these statistics is that suicide can be prevented.  The Suicide Prevention Resource Center states the signs of depression may include:

      • Feelings sadness or worthlessness
      • Feeling anxious, restless or irritable.
      • Lack of interest in things you usually enjoy
      • Feeling tired or having no energy
      • Having problems concentrating or making decisions
      • Having problems sleeping (too much or too little)
      • Changes in appetite ( having no appetite or eating excessively)
      • Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts

Never ignore comments about suicide.  Many people mention suicide before actually attempting it.  Get help for yourself or your friend.

Help is available for College of the Desert students 24 hours a day and 7 days a week FOR FREE. The cost is covered by your Health Services fee paid at registration.

If you need help or know someone who does, you can call (760) 776-7211 for an appointment with Cynthia Llewelyn-Price.

Help is also available on campus at the Cravens Student Services Center on the first floor.  They are open for walk-ins Monday through Thursday 9:00 am- 5:00 pm and Friday 9:00 am-12:00 noon. Or, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s toll-free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to talk to a trained counselor.

For more information on this topic, go to the following websites: 

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