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Suicide on Campus

i need to get to work, but this is important.

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Suicide on Campus

Colleges and universities across the country are
feeling the brunt of the
increase in youth depression. From 1989 to 2001, the
number of depressed
students seeking help doubled, and those at risk for
suicide tripled,
according to a much-cited Kansas State University
study. [40]

“No doubt, over the last 10 years people are coming in
with more severe
depressions,” says Jaquelyn Liss Resnick, president
the Association of
University and College Counseling Center Directors.
“The types of problems
have not changed over time, but the severity has.”

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among
college students, with an
estimated 7.5 deaths per 100,000 students per year,
according to a study of
Big 10 campuses from 1980 to 1990. A nationwide study
found that 9 percent
of college students seriously considered suicide
between one and 10 times in
the 2002-3 school year, and just over 1 percent
actually tried to kill
themselves. [41]

Resnick and other experts say college students always
have been under
stress, due to academic and social pressures and being
separated from their
families. In addition, many are exposed to drugs and
alcohol for the first
time in college. Moreover, emotional vulnerabilities
become more apparent
during the intense work and sometimes sleepless nights
typical of college
life.

In addition, more children with serious mental
illnesses today are being
diagnosed and treated with antidepressants, which can
enable some to attend
and cope with college who years ago perhaps would not
have even considered
applying to college.

“All across the country, we're seeing a significant
increase in people
coming in who are on psychiatric medication,” Resnick
says.

The Miami Herald recently profiled one such woman,
Caitlin Stork, who
attempted suicide when she was 15, then tried again
shortly after being
discharged from the hospital. Doctors eventually
diagnosed her as having a
bipolar disorder and put her on the mood stabilizer
lithium. Now a senior at
Harvard, Stork also takes the anti-psychotic Seroquel.

“You would never believe how much I can hide from
you,” Stork wrote for a
campus display on mental health. “I'm a Harvard
student like any other; I
take notes during lecture, goof off . . . but I never
let on how much I
hurt.”

Some experts believe the situation is getting worse.
“This is just the
beginning,” said Peter Lake, a professor of law at
Stetson University who
co-authored The Rights and Responsibilities of the
Modern University: Who
Assumes the Risks of College Life? He believes mental
illness — particularly
self-inflicted injury — will soon eclipse alcohol as
the No. 1 issue on
campuses. [42]

In response to growing needs, colleges have hired more
psychiatrists,
expanded the hours at counseling centers and
instituted outreach programs.
Teachers are being instructed to keep an eye on
potentially overstressed
students during exam times.

Congress also may step in. Last year, two House
lawmakers introduced the
Campus Care and Counseling Act, which would provide
$10 million in fiscal
2005 for campus mental and behavioral health service
centers.

Resnick believes campuses are a good place for
troubled youths to get help,
because they are tight-knit communities. “The vast
majority of students come
here to create a community,” she says. “This allows
for quite a bit of
exposure to faculty and staff, campus ministers and
other groups that can be
on the alert for people who seem especially
distressed. If you do a good job
of outreaching, this can be a very good first-alert
system.”

But some students who need help sometimes don't know
about the counseling
services or are reluctant to use them because of the
stigma attached to
emotional problems. “A lot of students aren't that
comfortable going up to a
psychiatrist, and saying, 'Hey, I need some help,' ”
said Peter Maki, a
University of Miami student and a member of a student
outreach group. [43]

Seeking to close that gap, the nonprofit Jed
Foundation last year launched a
free Web site, Ulifeline.org, which links students to
mental health centers,
information about emotional problems and anonymous
screening for depression,
eating disorders and other problems. The foundation
was founded by Donna and
Phil Satow, whose son Jed hanged himself while a
sophomore at the University
of Arizona in 1998.

“The ability to access a Web site confidentially, in
the privacy of your
dorm room, has distinct advantages,” said Morton
Silverman, director of the
National Suicide Prevention Center in Newton, Mass.
“And university students
today are very adept at using the information . . . so
having a resource
there to check on their mental health is an important
thing.” [44]
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