Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Let me say that again, suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students.
A 2012 study by the American College Counseling Association found that 37.4 percent of college students seeking help have severe psychological problems, up from 16 percent in 2000. “By far, depression and anxiety are the most prevalent mental health problems students confront, says Executive Director of the Jed Foundation John MacPhee. This organization oversees the website ULifeline.org, a resource center for students dealing with emotional issues. “Only back pain, sinuses, and allergies are more prevalent among college students,” adds MacPhee. Indeed, the second leading cause of death among college students is suicide, which accounts for about 1,100 deaths per year on campuses. “The number one killer is accidents, which include accidental overdoses and drinking and driving deaths, many of which might be linked to depression and anxiety, too.”
This is a sobering statistic and one that should be generating a lot of attention and conversation. Sadly, it is the opposite. Suicide, depression, and mental illness are all topics from which most people still shy away. The subject of suicide or mental illness continues to be uncomfortable and awkward to deal with. That needs to change if we hope to improve this startling statistic, and we must. One in four people in this country deal with some sort of mental illness. Many are suffering in silence because they are afraid of reaching out – afraid of talking about it. As a result they do not get the help they need, the help that could save their life.
If diabetes, cancer, meningitis, or HIV were the second leading cause of death among young adults in this country, it would be a national health crisis. I do not understand the difference. Most mental illnesses are treatable and research shows education and awareness about suicide can help save lives. Awareness and education are key tools in the fight against suicide.
West Chester University will be hosting its second annual Out of the Darkness Walk to raise awareness about suicide prevention. I would like to ask you to consider coming out for this free event on Saturday, April 20 at 12 p.m. You can register ahead at www.campuswalks.org or on the day of the walk. Students will be meeting in the quad area behind Wayne Hall. Please come out and show your support on April 20 to help raise awareness and be part of the conversation and part of the solution.
Kate Pawlowski is a member of the Mental Health Awareness Committee of West Chester University. She can be contacted at (610) 436-1002.