Special Report: Preventing Suicide

Jonathan Carlson

A survey is passed out every two years to nearly 300 colleges and universities nationwide, providing information as to the frequency of suicidal behavior on campuses.
In 1995, the National College Health Risk Behavior Survey, as it is called, concluded that an average of ten percent of students at schools nationwide claimed to have “seriously thought about suicide.”
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24, with accidents and homicide rounding out the top two.
In 1998, records show that more teenagers and young adults died from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.
It should be considered however, that most young people are unlikely to die from most of the illnesses listed above.
Data further shows persons under 25 years old accounted for 15 percent of all suicides in 1998.
From 1952 to 1995, suicide in young people nearly tripled. Suicide among minorities has skyrocketed over the years as well.
In addition, among persons 15 to 19 years old, firearm related suicides accounted for 62 percent of the increase in the overall rate of suicide from 1980 to 1997.
Overall, suicide is the eighth leading cause of death for all Americans, with males standing four times more likely to die from suicide than females.
However, females are more likely to attempt suicide than males. Nearly three out of every five suicides in 1998 were committed with a firearm.
Dr. David Shaffer, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Columbia University, and a leading expert on suicide, said suicide in young people, ages 15 to 24 increases with age, peaking in the early 20’s.
Contributing factors that may send young people over the edge include broken relationships, anxiety symptoms, doing poorly in school, and drug and alcohol abuse.
“Young people are less able to cope with problems, and lack the experience of coping with those problems,” said Shaffer.
What are some of the warning signs?
“Kids who have been depressed, drinking too much, involved in disciplinary incidents, or display anxiety,” continued the doctor.
Shaffer said awareness needs to be raised in the classroom, and getting help needs to be easier and more confidential.
Remove the stigma, so students feel comfortable reaching out for help.
As for those on the Quinnipiac University campus, counselors are available for students who feel they need help or want someone to talk to. They are advised to call the Student Health Center or Office of Student Affairs to set up an appointment.
If a student on campus believes a roommate or friend may be in need of immediate help, the responsibility rests on Residential Life.
The student should speak to the Resident Assistant, who will then take the appropriate steps in prevention. Furthermore, there is a hotline for students to call: 1-800-203-1234.

Portions of this story appeared previously in the Times-Beacon-Record Newspapers of Long Island, where the author is employed as a writer. It is reprinted here with permission.