*This is a last minute article; it’s definitely not my best…*On February 20, 500 randomly selected Lawrence University students were asked to participate in a national suicide study, the first of its kind at Lawrence. The study, entitled “Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors among Undergraduate and Graduate Students in the United States”, is a web-based survey which randomly pulls results from 146 national colleges and universities.
This study comes after more published reports on suicide rates on college campuses. According to research compiled by the study’s Principal Investigators from the University of Texas Research Consortium, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among college-age students, and seventy-five percent of students who commit suicide have not sought help at their counseling center. Many counseling centers have thereby searched for new ways to collect data in order to more effectively reach out to students who are in need of help.
Once results from participating institutions are provided, the counseling center staff has three main purposes for the information: to help better intervene with students in suicidal crises, to more effectively help students through their crises by offering free or low-cost services, and to develop practices that reach out to students’ individual needs.
Following the goals of the study, the counselors hope to more fully “explore aspects of suicidal crises among college students”, identify characteristics of suicidal students, the barriers which prevent them from seeking help, and “the psychological and situational factors associated with suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.”
By participating in this study, Lawrence will also gain access to all published analyses of the survey and become part of a large national data set that will be analyzed by the University of Texas Research Consortium.
This study is particularly unique because, according to Director of Counseling Services Kathleen Fuchs, it “represents the first time our students have been asked about suicidal thoughts and behaviors.”
During the survey, selected students were asked to read and sign a consent form that explained everything pertaining to the voluntary-only study. The survey took an estimated five minutes to complete for students who marked that they had not had suicidal thoughts in the past year. Those who reported having suicidal thoughts in the past year were invited to complete extra sections, which took an estimated 15 minutes. Issues on suicide are often regarded as taboo subjects, even among college students; however, the survey still hopes to successfully gather accurate information from students.
Although the accuracy of the study also depends largely on the response rate, Fuchs commented that the study will nonetheless provide much valuable information to counselors and researchers. “We are hopeful that the data from this survey will provide us with a better idea of how the incidence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among our students compares with national trends,” Fuchs said.
Most importantly, Fuchs emphasized the positive aspects of the study in relation to students. Said Fuchs, “We are hopeful that one of the greatest impacts of this study will be to let students know that it is okay to talk about these issues and that others care and wish to offer help and support.”
As provided at the end of the survey, students will be given information about local resources for help and support:
Lawrence Counseling Services: 832-6574
Outgamie County Crisis Intervention: 832-4646