Back to School Season Means Students at Greater Risk of Death By Suicide

Sep 2015

Texas suicide lawyerA new school year is starting and kids will soon be heading back to college campuses nationwide. For many of these students, the new school year is not something to look forward to this fall. Instead, returning to college mean means a return to the tremendous pressures to be perfect in a competitive college setting. High expectations and intense stress to succeed often contribute to high rates of campus depression and suicidal thoughts among young people.

New York Times reported the rate of death by suicide among 15 to 24 year olds has steadily increased since 2007. And college students may be among the most vulnerable segment of society. A recent survey of college counseling centers found that more than half of clients seeking counseling have “severe psychological problems.” College students, who may have limited parental supervision and distant support networks while away at school, face an especially significant risk. College counselors may be the only ones who can determine when a student is considering death by suicide and the only ones available to take action to help the student. That’s why counselors and academic institutions may be held accountable when these warning signs are missed.

Warning signs are missed by clinicians because of lack of training on taking a systematic suicide assessment.  With training a clinician has no excuse for deciding not to take the time to properly assess and document the assessment.  If the student is at risk for suicide then appropriate interventions need to be taken to protect the patient.

College Students and Risks of Death by Suicide

In 2007, there were 9.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000 individuals age 15 to 24. In 2013, that figure had risen to 11.1 suicides per 100,000 individuals within the same demographic group. Among college students seeking counseling, chances a student would be diagnosed with a severe mental condition increased 13 percent over a period of just two years. Anxiety and depression are the two most common mental health diagnoses among college students.

Female students may be especially at risk of suffering from anxiety and depression because reports have shown many feel a pressure to be effortlessly and relentlessly perfect. This means not only excelling academically and in social endeavors, but also putting forth a persona of being happy and self-assured all the time.

Women afraid to fail may hide mental issues they are facing until it is too late for friends and family to help them. College counselors need to be trained to identify when a student is masking deep-seated depression or anxiety so they can provide the mental health assistance students need when coping with the very real pressures they face.

The Times notes there has been several high profile suicides among both college and high school students in recent years attributed to the culture of high expectations and overachievement. In just 13-months, six students from University of Pennsylvania died by suicide. Tulane University lost four students to death by suicide in a single academic year, and there were three deaths by suicide at Appalachian State. From 2009 to 2010, there were also six students at Cornell University who died by suicide. Most of these students appeared to have everything going for them, and were active in campus groups. However, many were likely responding to pressures to act self-assured and mask doubts they had about their futures.

As college students head back to campus this year, schools need to be aware of the toll of the pressure to be perfect can have on students. That’s why colleges and universities need to make sure students receive the support they need to deal with mental health issues before it’s too late.

A suicide attorney at the Law Offices of Skip Simpson can help. Call (214) 618-8222 or visit to schedule a free case consultation.

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