Suicide in colleges in the United States

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In colleges and universities in the United States, suicide is one of the most common causes of death among students.[1] Prior to a 1978 PBS broadcast of College Can Be Killing universities would sometimes deny that suicide was an issue at their schools, which could cause issues with the reporting of statistics.[2] After the broadcast raised awareness for suicide in college, most schools began creating programs to assist students while they attend college. Since then more research has been conducted on suicide in college, resulting in improved assistance programs and better identification of at-risk students.[1]


Prior to an increased awareness of suicide in college, reports of suicide were occasionally rare. Universities and colleges would sometimes avoid drawing attention to student suicides, as they did not want the reputation and image of their institutions to suffer.[2] One of the earliest records of suicides of college students in the United States was in 1927, when 20 students across the entire continent committed suicides.[2] In 2006, 1100 students in the US committed suicide, and 24,000 attempted it.[3]

Since the year 2000, rates of suicide deaths have increased dramatically, something that psychiatrist Doris Iarovici has attributed to the rise in depression in students.[4] According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), approximately 10% of the student population within the educational system have been diagnosed with or treated for depression.[5] Recent studies have also suggested that underclassmen were less likely to commit suicide due to a lack of worry over bills or work and because many were full-time students living with their parents.[6]

Motives for suicide[edit]

The amount and type of motivations for suicide can vary from student to student, however a common motivation for suicide has been stress.[7] In a 2008 physiological study conducted by the Associated Press and MTVU, eight out of ten college students reported a feeling of horrible stress that impacted their grades.[7] Another common motivating factor has been issues at home that can impact their academic career.[8] Home-based issues can be composed of abuse, starvation, and overall poor living conditions.[8]

Stress over managing a part-time job and maintaining a full-time course load, 15 units or more per semester, has also been reported as a common factor that contributes to suicide, as have issues with substance and alcohol abuse. Depression can also be a factor.[9]

College programs and initiatives[edit]

Many universities and colleges have begun offering assistance to new and returning students with dealing with stress.[2] Some institutions have also begun providing educators and staff members with training and education on how to interact with a student that has expressed or shown suicidal interests or tendencies.[2]


  1. ^ a b Taub, Deborah J.; Thompson, Jalonda (Spring 2013). "College Student Suicide". New Directions for Student Services. 2013 (141): 5–14. doi:10.1002/ss.20036.
  2. ^ a b c d e Brown, Peggy (Winter 2014). "College Can Be Killing: United States College and University Responses to Student Suicide During the 20th Century and Early 21st Century". Journal of College Admission: 35–48.
  3. ^ Fernández Rodríguez, M. del C., & Huertas, I. B. (2013). Suicide Prevention in College Students: A Collaborative Approach. Revista Interamericana de Psicologia = Interamerican Journal of Psychology, 47(1), 53–60.
  4. ^ Iarovici, Doris (July 2015). "Perspectives on College Student Suicide". Psychiatric Times: 27–32.
  5. ^ "College Student Mental Health Statistics". National Alliance on Mental Illness (via Chadron State College).
  6. ^ De Luca, Susan (January 2016). "The Relationship Between Suicide Ideation, Behavioral Health, and College Academic Performance". Community Mental Health. 52 (5): 534–540. doi:10.1007/s10597-016-9987-4. PMID 26831304.
  7. ^ a b Wu, Joanne (February 29, 2000). "Stress in College Students". The American Institute of Stress.
  8. ^ a b Foster, Dawn (February 4, 2016). "Poor housing is bad for your mental health". The Guardian.
  9. ^ Hawksworth, Elizabeth (September 18, 2014). "College drove me to the brink of Suicide". Washington Post.