Vol. 14, Iss. 11
© 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company
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Most large public research institutions in the
country do not track student suicides, according to
a research report issued by The Associated Press.
The AP asked the 100 largest public research insti-
tutions in the country for their annual statistics on
student suicide. Of those 100 institutions, only 46
reported tracking annual student suicides. Of the
remaining 54 institutions, 43 did not track student
suicides at all, nine were able to provide limited or
incomplete data, and two did not reply to the survey.
Researchers report that this is problematic,
as more and more institutions are investing in
mental health resources for students, but without
data about actual numbers of student suicide, it’s
impossible to measure how effective these new
resources actually are. “If you don’t collect the
data, you’re doing half the job. We need information
in mental health if we’re actually going to be able
to better tailor health and healing,” said Gordon
Smith, a former U.S. senator from Oregon, to the
AP. Smith became a suicide prevention advocate
after his son, Garrett, committed suicide while in
college in 2003.
Although the U.S. Department of Education asks
colleges and universities to collect information on
student deaths, it has no speciﬁc guidelines about
the collection of information and statistics on stu-
Study nds tracking student suicide leads
to targeting of mental health resources
Of institutions that did track and provide informa-
tion on rates of suicide among the student popula-
tion, the report found that, in some cases, rates of
reported suicide were so low that experts questioned
their accuracy. For example, the University of Ari-
zona reported a suicide rate of 0.7 per 100,000,
while independent studies have found that the rate
of suicide among college students was between 6.5
and 7 per 100,000. Other ﬁndings and recommen-
dations from the study include:
➢ Some of the nation’s largest institutions, includ-
ing Arizona State University and the University of
Wisconsin, do not currently track student suicides.
However, UW has committed to work on a database
that would track the causes of all student deaths.
➢ While young adults in college are less likely
than their peers not in college to commit suicide,
they’re at the age when symptoms of schizophrenia
and bipolar disorder begin to appear, increasing the
likelihood of suicide.
➢ Of the institutions that collect information on
student suicides, 59 percent had been consistently
collecting data on student suicides since 2007.
➢ Institutions that collect data on student sui-
cides have differing policies regarding whether to
count suicides that occur off campus or during
breaks in instruction.
➢ Three states — New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and
Washington — have pushed for formal legislation
requiring institutions to collect data on student
suicides, but so far, no such legislation has passed.
➢ Suicide rates nationwide are on the rise across
demographics, including those aged 15 to 24.
➢ Institutions that track suicide rates are often
able to use that information as a way to tailor preven-
tion efforts. For example, Clemson University ofﬁcials
noticed, based on their suicide tracking efforts, that
there was an increased rate of suicide in transfer
students. The institution is now redoubling efforts
to connect those students with on-campus mental
health services and resources.
➢ Other ways that institutions that track rates of
suicide among students have used the information
have been to target speciﬁc areas on campus that
see increased suicidal activity, for example, blocking
off access to certain roofs or high-risk areas.
The Associated Press did not release the suicide
rates of institutions that reported tracking them.
Most campuses don’t track student suicides,
despite increase in resources
By Halley Sutton, Assistant Editor
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