Colleges and Universities
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the American College Health Association (ACHA):¹
- 51.7% of students felt that things were hopeless,
- 39.3% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function,
- 60.9% felt overwhelming anxiety,
- 12.1% seriously considered suicide, and
- 1.9% attempted a suicide.
According to a 2018 annual report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health (CCMH), among students receiving counseling services:²
- 35.8% reported serious suicidal ideation and
- 10.3% reported a suicide attempt, continuing an 8-year upward trend.
Mental health plays a central role in students’ success in college. The transition to college is a major life change for youth that can be filled with challenges, social influences, and/or a new environment, and students often have trouble developing new coping strategies to adjust to these changes. Major life changes, even those that are planned, can increase risk of depression or suicide.3 It is critical that college and university campuses promote mental health, substance use and suicide prevention programs, resources, and services.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,3 experiencing any of the following symptoms nearly every day for at least two weeks may indicate major depression:
- Feeling sad or anxious all or most of the time
- Feeling irritable, easily frustrated, or restless
- Feeling guilty, worthless, hopeless, or helpless
- Loss of interest or pleasure in enjoyable activities
- Decreased energy, fatigue, and being “slowed down”
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Waking up too early, sleeping too much, or having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Feeling tired, even after sleeping well
- Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
- Experiencing physical symptoms such as aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
Depression can happen to anyone, and it can look different for each person. Different cultures and backgrounds also view and portray depression – and suicide – differently. This is likely related to attitudes and beliefs toward mental health, depression, and suicide; social and family structures; ability to regulate emotion; attitudes toward help seeking; and availability of services and treatments. As such, it is important to take culture into account when planning and providing mental health and suicide prevention services. Learn more about populations at increased risk for suicide. Visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center for information on how to access the Suicide Prevention Multicultural Competence Kit for colleges and universities, developed at Pace University.
Depression is the most common risk factor for suicide. Changes in behavior, particularly around a life change, painful event, or loss, are often noticeable in someone who is suicidal. Those who take their lives often exhibit multiple of the following warning signs:4
- Talking about killing oneself, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Looking for ways to end their lives
- Saying goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
- Aggression, fatigue, sleeping too much or too little
- Displaying moods of depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation, shame, agitation, or anger
- Relief or sudden improvement
Some signs may be more noticeable than others. If you or someone you know are exhibiting one or more of these warning signs, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text ‘Got5’ to 741-741 for help. Click here for more information about risk and protective factors (link to Risk Factors Associated with Suicide page).
Students, parents or supervising adults, and college and university administration, faculty, and staff play different but equally important roles in preventing suicide. Please click the links on the left toolbar for more information.