September is National Suicide Prevention Month – organizations, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the National Alliance of Mental Illness, and individuals across the world raise awareness for suicide prevention.
While colleges and universities have made valiant efforts with increasing resources and awareness at their institutions, suicide is still the second most common cause of death among college students and therefore continues to be a major focus.
NSPW provides the perfect opportunity for institutions to promote their available mental health-related resources throughout campus and review current initiatives to see where they might improve.
Looking at the Facts
Suicide, defined as death caused by self-directed injurious behavior with the intent to die as a result of the behavior, is the second most common cause of death among college students.
And, the statistics below provide better insight into the current outlook at our nation’s post-secondary institutions:
- 1,000 students take their lives each year on college campuses.
- More than half of college students have had suicidal thoughts and 10% think about seriously considering attempting suicide.'
- 80-90% of college students who die by suicide were not receiving help from college counseling centers.
It’s often heavily debated whether institutions can provide even more efforts to curb the rise of mental illness on campus as well as provide support for those suffering from it, but the answer isn’t so straightforward. It requires a change in thinking among students as well as faculty and staff. This necessary and important change can be fostered through a series of small improvements on campus.
Reducing the Stigma
According to the Mayo Clinic, stigma is when somebody views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is, a disadvantage (a negative stereotype).
The stigma surrounding mental illness on college and university campus can be especially dangerous and lead campus members to refrain from seeking help as they are afraid of common misconceptions, such as “it’s just a phase” or “it’s something you can control if you only tried.”
Additional misconceptions commonly associated with mental illness are:
- People with mental health problems are violent and unpredictable.
- People suffering from mental illness are no more likely to be violent than anyone else.
- Only 3-5% of people suffering from mental illness have been attributed to violent crimes.
- People with mental health problems can snap out of it if they try hard enough.
- Mental illness can be caused by a range of factors, including biological factors, life experiences, and family history.
- Mental illness can be managed and recovered from.
- I cannot do anything for someone suffering from a mental illness.
- Friends, family, and colleagues can heavily influence someone to seek out mental illness-related services, and, can help combat the stigma associated with mental illness.
- People with mental health needs cannot tolerate the stress of holding down a job, etc.
- People suffering from mental illness are just as productive as other people. And, have been reported to have good attendance, motivation, output, etc.
While you may not be able to entirely solve student mental health issues on your campus or completely reduce the number of students who commit suicide, you can enable campus members to use the available resources on your campus to live a healthy lifestyle, mentally, and physically.
We’ve put together six action steps to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness and health on campus while increasing awareness for it.
Above all, it’s important to continuously showcase and promote available resources to campus members throughout the year – especially during the more stressful times on campus, such as exams or the first couple of weeks of the year.
Make sure to review our comprehensive mental wellness guide to learn even more about mental health and its role on our nation's campuses.
Preview Our Mental Health Program
Through peer presenters, student testimonials, and scenarios, students will learn the following from this course: facts and the scope of mental health, warning signs and risk factors, ways to respond to mental health emergencies and/or suspicions, and methods to help create a positive environment.