21 August 2008

Students have suicidal thoughts

A 2006 survey of roughly 26 000 college students in the US shows that over half have thought about suicide at least once during their lifetime.

A 2006 survey of roughly 26 000 college students in the US shows that over half have thought about suicide at least once during their lifetime.

Furthermore, 15 percent of students had seriously considered attempting suicide at some point in their lives and that over five percent actually had made one or more attempts, the Web-based survey, conducted by the National Research Consortium of Counseling Centers in Higher Education, found.

The findings were reported at the Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association in Boston.

When asked about suicidal thoughts in the 12 months prior to the survey, six percent of undergraduates and four percent of graduate students said they had seriously considered suicide.

That suggests that, at a college with 18,000 undergraduates, nearly 1 100 students will seriously consider suicide during any single year, noted Dr David J. Drum and co-researchers, from the University of Texas at Austin.

Moreover, they reported, about two-third of students contemplating suicide during a given year, do so at least twice.

Most suicidal thoughts 'brief'
Among the respondents who said they seriously considered suicide, 14 percent of undergraduates and eight percent of graduate students reported making an attempt. Medical attention was required in 19 percent of undergraduate attempts and 28 percent of graduate student attempts. In about half of these cases, the attempt was made with a drug overdose.

Most students reported that their suicidal thoughts were intense, but brief, usually not lasting longer than one day. Over half of the students who reported a recent suicidal crisis did not tell anyone or seek professional help.

The most common reason for contemplating suicide was to find relief from emotional or physical pain. Other common reasons were difficulties with romantic relationships and school or academic problems.

According to Drum, a key to stopping suicide in this setting is to involve a range of campus personnel in prevention efforts - including administrators, advisors, student leaders, faculty, parents, and counselors - rather than limiting the intervention to just "the suicidal student and the few mental health professionals available."

Broader involvement by a cross-section of campus personnel, he believes, "would reduce the percentage of students who engage in suicidal thinking, who contemplate how to make an attempt and who continue to make attempts." – (Reuters Health, August 2008)

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Michael Simpson has been a senior psychiatric academic, researcher, and Professor in several countries, having worked at London University in the UK; McMaster University in Canada; Temple University in Philadelphia, USA.; and the University of Natal in South Africa.

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