Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors among College Students

The United States reported to have suicidal thoughts at least once in their lives. About 15% reported to have seriously considered committing suicide and over 5% had attempted suicide attempt at some point in their lifetime.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, led by psychologist David J. Drum, reported these findings at the 116th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. They conducted the survey about suicidal experiences among college students in 2006.

Description of episodes

Most of the students described their usual episode of suicidal thoughts as strong and brief, with most episodes lasting for a day or less. Drum and colleagues found that, over half of college students who had a suicidal thoughts and exhibited suicidal behaviors did not tell anyone about their condition. They also did not seek professional help.

Reasons for suicidal thoughts and behaviors

Students (both undergraduate and graduate) provided these reasons for their suicidal thoughts and behaviors: problems with academics; problems romantic relationships; wanting relief from physical or emotional pain; and the desire to take away their lives. From the survey, Drum and his team found that suicidal thoughts and behaviors are frequently recurring experiences similar to depression, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Suicide attempts

The survey, reviewed by experts in suicidology and counseling directors of participating colleges and universities campus, showed that 6% of undergraduates and 4% of graduate students had seriously considered suicide within the a year prior to the survey. The researchers speculated that about 67% of those who considered committing suicide would do so at least once in 12 months.

The survey also found that 14% of undergraduates and about 8% of graduate students who seriously considered suicide made suicide attempts. Approximately 19% of undergraduate and 28% of graduate students who attempted suicide required medical attention.

Intervention model

The authors found that reliance on the current treatment model (identifying and helping students who have suicidal tendencies), is not enough in preventing and reducing suicide behaviors on college campuses. They suggested a new model. They said that professionals should focus on suicidal tendencies as the problem, instead of looking only at students who are in crisis. This would allow professionals to deliver interventions at multiple points.

The findings can help match at-risk students or those who have already gone through suicidal thoughts and behaviors with proper treatments. This will significantly reduce the number of college students who enter the suicide continuum. This will also keep suicidal thoughts and behaviors from progressing into attempts.