On-Campus Suicide a Hidden Killer

[…] Approximately 1,100 U.S. college students take their own lives each year. Nobody’s sure if that number is rising or falling — according to Gibori, a steep increase in on-campus suicides has been charted over the past 40 years, but that could simply reflect a more honest reporting of an event that’s been too long cloaked in shame.

“Suicide is still an unexplored social taboo in our society today,” Gibori said. Breaking that taboo is the key goal of The Jed Foundation and its Web-based help service, Ulifeline.org.

Students in trouble who head to the site can get youth-friendly, anonymous mental health information, as well as links to on-campus mental health centers at more than 530 U.S. colleges. “Right now, over 5 million students have access to the program,” Gibori said.

The need is real. According to Los Angeles psychologist Michael Peck, a specialist in youth suicide, college can be a dangerous time for troubled young people.

Many are emotionally immature, he said, and while their newfound independence from parents is liberating, it can be scary, too. Alcohol and drugs are readily available, and the pressure to achieve and fit in can be overwhelming, especially at prestige schools.

In fact, “a study I did years ago found that elite colleges have much higher suicide-event rates than small, local community colleges,” Peck said. Much of that owes to the fact that students attending smaller, local colleges are also more likely to be living in the relative comfort and safety of the family home.