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 institutions 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 student suicides.Study finds tracking student suicide leads to targeting of mental health resourcesOf institutions that did track and provide information on rates of suicide among the student population, the report found that, in some cases, rates of reported suicide were so low that experts questioned their accuracy. For example, the University of Arizona 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 recommendations from the study include:➢ Some of the nation's largest institutions, including 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 suicides 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 prevention 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.Get published in Campus Security ReportWhat successful initiatives have you put in place to enhance campus safety? How do you lead your unit to provide the most effective policing possible for your institution?Share your ideas and successes with your colleagues by writing an article for this publication.For Campus Security Report's writers' guidelines, contact the editor, Joan Hope, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campus Security Report – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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