College is full of positive experiences, from participating in student organizations to learning about and securing your professional future. But leaving home and starting what seems like a new life can also be challenging for many people. Because of the changes and challenges that come with college, depression and suicidal ideation in college students are genuine concerns.
Statistics on Depression and Suicide in College Students
When it comes to depression, suicidal ideation, and suicide in college students, the statistics tell an important story.
- About 44% of college students report having symptoms of depression or anxiety.
- 27% of college students are diagnosed with depression or another mood disorder.
- 23% said depression negatively impacted their academic performance in the last 12 months.
- 5% said depression delayed their progress toward their degree.
- Suicide is the No. 2 leading cause of death for college students.
- About 1,100 suicides occur on college campuses per year.
“Not all people who experience depression also have thoughts of suicide,” said Integrative Life Center Program Director, Teresa Shakir, LCSW. “However, many people who have thoughts of suicide also experience depression. The two concepts are linked.”
Factors Contributing to Depression and Suicidal Ideation in College Students
Colleges are filled with various types of people from all over the world. They have different stories to share and come from unique backgrounds. Some of them come to college with existing mental health issues, while others may develop mental health concerns while at the university.
Factors that may contribute to depression and suicidal ideation in college students:
- Stress and anxiety
- Poor academic performance or academic stress
- Social factors like problems making friends or fitting in
- Financial stress
- Substance or alcohol use
- Trauma or other negative life events
Warning Signs of Depression and Suicide Risk
Some people are more open with their emotions, while others hide them. Regardless, it’s vital to understand the warning signs of depression or suicidal ideation in college students, so you know how to respond.
Warning signs of depression or suicidal ideation in college students:
- Lack of focus
- Missing class or declining grades
- Visible sadness, guilt, or shame
- Ongoing emotional or physical pain
- Difficulty completing daily activities like going to class
- Talking about suicide or death
- Saying things would be better without them
“If you think that a loved one or student is showing signs of depression, it may be a good idea to have a private talk with them. Tell them what you’ve noticed and ask if they’re okay or if they need help,” Teresa said. “If the person expresses that they’re having difficulties, lead them to the campus counseling center or help connect them to a mental health professional.”
Growing Concern for Certain Groups
When it comes to depression and suicidal ideation in college students, some groups are more prone to these issues than others.
Getting a scholarship for being a successful athlete sounds like living a dream, but the pressure to perform athletically and academically can be difficult for a young person’s mental health. Being overtly competitive and creating perfectionist complexes can lead to unhealthy amounts of stress and anxiety that can cause depression and suicidal ideation in college student-athletes.
Having a disability can make it uniquely mentally and physically challenging to be a college student. The stresses of college or functioning in a new environment may be compounded for these students. In addition, watching other students successfully navigate college seemingly more easily can seem unfair. People with disabilities are more prone than others to suicidal thoughts, suicide planning, and suicide.
High school and college are a time that many people explore their identity and self-expression while becoming mature, independent individuals. Those in the LGBTQ+ community often face bullying, homelessness, substance use, and various types of abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. Recently, many state legislations have presented bills counterintuitive to the LGBTQ+ community that make life seem impossible.
The Trevor Project, a nonprofit aimed at preventing LGBTQ+ youth suicide, found that suicide rates among that community decreased on college campuses that provided mental health resources and other resources specifically geared toward LGBTQ+ students.
Society puts toxic and outdated masculine standards on men that require them to be stoic, unemotional, and unreceptive to mental health treatment. This type of ideology can lead to severe mental health consequences among men. As a young man, you are navigating how to date, provide financially for your life, and be independent. When those expectations aren’t met, it can cause severe depression and suicidal ideation in college students. Men are four times more likely to die by suicide than women.
“Anyone can experience depression or suicidal ideation, but certain populations are more susceptible to these concerns than others,” Teresa said. “It’s important to let those around you know that you are a safe person to talk to and you will help them if they need help.”
Fighting Depression and Suicide in College Students
If you have a college student in your life or work with college students, it’s vital to understand how common depression and suicide is in college students. It’s also important to be able to recognize the signs that a student may need help.
To help a college student in need:
- Create mental health awareness events that educate students on the risks and causes of depression and suicidal ideation in college students like themselves.
- Provide counseling and support systems for students who may face severe mental health concerns.
- Allow students to create organizations that open them to self-care and help them learn to love who they are.
“We know that providing education, openly discussing mental health, and making resources available to those in need makes a difference, especially on college campuses,” Teresa said. “We can’t underestimate the value of these resources. If even one life is saved, it’s worth it.”
How ILC Can Help
Depression and suicidal ideation are a concern with college students. If you or someone you know is having problems with these mental health issues, Integrative Life Center is here to help. We provide individualized treatment for depression. Contact us to learn more or get started.
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Reese Druckenmiller, L. I. C. S. W. (2022, December 7). College students and Depression. Mayo Clinic Health System. Retrieved February 27, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/college-students-and-depression
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