Study: Suicidal thoughts high among students

From Wire Services

Gina Akers
Illinois State Daily Vidette

NORMAL, Ill. (U-WIRE) – Feelings of hopelessness, loneliness and the idea that life cannot just go on reportedly fill the heads of more than half of the college student population.

A study conducted by the National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education found that 55 percent of college undergraduates have thought about suicide. Fifteen percent seriously considered it and six percent made an attempt.

Illinois State University was one of the 70 universities to participate in the study, with 287 student participants out of the total 26,000. According to the National College Health Assessment, in a more comprehensive study, nine percent of ISU students seriously considered attempting suicide in 2007.

“We’ve talked to many students who have thought about killing themselves. Not many have gone through with it, and we want to keep it that way,” Sandy Colbs, director of Student Counseling Services at ISU, said. “Being in college provides some protection against suicide, most likely because of the environment we try to create.”

According to Colbs, it is difficult to know the exact number of students who have killed themselves because the cause of death is not always easily found. Still, Colbs remembers at least four cases in the seven years she has been at SCS.

She also said suicide rates have stayed consistent during her time at ISU and that nationally, suicide rates are lower among 18-24-year-olds in college compared to those who are not in college.

“Even if it’s a small number of people (who) kill themselves, it’s hundreds of people’s lives they touch,” Colbs said. “Even one suicide is a serious problem.”

Last year Colbs instituted a program called Question, Persuade and Refer on ISU’s campus. The program, known also as QPR, is designed to help people learn how to save someone from suicide.

The hour and a half long seminar trains individuals on how to talk about suicide, persuade people to get help and give them a proper referral. It addresses clues and warning signs and then gives specific approaches on how to deal with someone who may be suicidal.

So far, QPR has 20 people certified to teach the course and has trained 500 people at ISU. Andy Novinska, SCS counselor and QPR coordinator, said asking someone if he or she is considering suicide actually reduces pressure in most situations.

“At its root, a suicide prevention program.is primarily about instilling hope in people and getting them help,” Novinska said. “The goal is to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues people face,” Novinska said.