Raising awareness of suicide on college campuses crucial


A white rose in remembrance; the dew drops resembling the countless fallen tears.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ranks suicide as the third leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.

When focusing on college students alone, the national average of college students suffering from severe depression linked to thoughts of suicide is about 13% of the student body. Out of this 13% of contemplative students, less than 1% actually completes suicide.

As reported by DU Health & Counseling Center:

  • About 7% of DU students report suffering from depression with thoughts of suicide.
  • At any given time, 3% of students may be in the contemplative state.
  • 10% of students are currently in the depression state or suffering from a mood disorder.
  • Mood disorders (bipolar disorder, depression, phobias, etc.) are the second most likely mental issue experienced by students with anxiety ranking first.
  • Less than 1% of students complete suicide.

“The University of Denver does have students who may have thoughts of suicide, but the majority of students don’t follow through with committing suicide,” stated Dr. Scott Cypers, assistant director of counseling at the DU Health & Counseling Center.

DU Promotes Awareness & Prevention
With the recent loss of a student, the University of Denver has become increasingly aware of suicide as a prevalent issue. However, some students find themselves in disbelief regarding the reality of the situation.

Stress from academic course load and the high demands expected of college level students serves as a leading contributing factor to development of depression with suicidal thoughts.

“I think there is a high awareness that suicide is an issue, but it is not a personalized awareness to those who have not been personally impacted by suicide as they tend to have difficulty believing it could happen to people they know,” explained Dr. Scott Cypers.

In efforts to increase awareness of suicide as an issue and promote prevention strategies, it is important to first identify key risk factors:

  • Family history of suicide and/or previous suicide attempts
  • History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
  • History of alcohol and substance abuse
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Isolation, Trama & Loss

In response to these risk factors, there are several protective factors that can reduce the likeliness of suicide such as:

  • Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
  • Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions
  • Family and community support
  • Support from ongoing medical and mental health care
  • Skills in problem solving, & conflict resolution

To deal with suicidal individuals on a more personal level, it is important to fully listen to and understand their experience of pain, loss, and trauma that contributes to their wish to end their life.

“Too often the emphasis when listening to a suicidal person lies in preventing the suicide by talking the person out of it or keeping them safe, which is important, but to focus solely on suicide risk and prevention leaves out listening to the voice of the suicidal person. When a person discloses suicidal thoughts, we must resist the instinct to talk the person out of it and instead say, ‘You must really be hurting. Tell me more.’” states Dr. Stacey Freedenthal, an associate professor at the Graduate School of Social Work who has had worked with those who have contemplated and/or attempted suicide during her years of experience with suicide hotlines and psychiatric emergency services.

At the University of Denver students can receive help from the Health & Counseling Center through individual counseling sessions where programs such as Question, Persuade, & Refer (QPR) are utilized or through the emergency phone line, which provides a trained professional to talk to day or night.

DU Health & Counseling also offers training to faculty, staff, resident assistants, and students through Help Net, a 6-hour training program that teaches how to recognize and address signs of suicide.

If you are every concerned about a fellow student, but don’t feel comfortable approaching them, notify members of Pioneers CARE, where any student can write a report with a concern about a fellow student and people will check in with that student to monitor their wellbeing.

For immediate emergency help, Metro Crisis Services at 888-855-1222, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the typical emergency 911 are always available as emergency response to suicide.

Service Journalism Sources:
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Center for Disease Control & Prevention
Suicide Prevention Resource Center

Further Reading:
College Students & the Risk of Suicide
Colleges See Rise in Mental Health Issues


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