September 14, 2018

Preventing Suicide on Campus

When it comes to students’ mental health, small interventions can make a big difference.

Recent studies reveal that 11 percent of college students report having seriously considered suicide and close to 2 percent have attempted suicide. But many colleges and universities are developing ways to promote mental health and reduce suicide on campus, says Bonnie Lipton, a senior prevention specialist with the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at EDC.

In this podcast, Lipton discusses some of the current ways that colleges and universities are addressing the need for mental health and suicide prevention programs and offers her perspective on how institutions of higher education can continue to improve these programs.

On how colleges and universities are confronting the issue of suicide on campus

Lipton: A lot of schools are using upstream models of preventing [mental health] problems before they occur—so they’re focusing on things like resilience, life skills [and alleviating common stressors]. So a campus might offer financial planning workshops to help students or a support group for LGBTQ students who are coming out for the first time. There’s also programming on connectedness—building a social network and building connections within the community.

On the need for campuses to have protocols ready in the event of an attempted suicide

Lipton: We at SPRC strongly encourage every campus to have a suicide prevention protocol in place for what to do when a student is in crisis and at risk of hurting themselves. What you want to know in this protocol is, what are the warning signs of suicide? Who on and off campus should be contacted if a student is hospitalized? What is the procedure if a student takes a leave of absence? What to do when that student is coming back? . . . And once it’s done, you want it to be widely disseminated so everyone knows about it.

On the importance of involving students in campus-based suicide prevention efforts

Lipton: Students are the audience that you are trying to reach, so you want to make sure they are involved in almost everything you are doing. So have your students be involved in helping to create and review awareness campaigns, in doing peer education, and in joining your mental health advisory boards. You want them to be involved in every part of that.