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Concerns grow over suicide among college students nationwide

In San Diego County, suicide among the college-age population is rising. News 8's Abbie Alford shares resources for those in need of help.

SAN DIEGO — Pediatricians are sounding the alarm on children’s mental health declaring it a national emergency.

Mental health is also plaguing college students including death by suicide.

Students on San Diego State’s campus say despite being able to return to campus there’s still added anxiety.

“Yeah school is back in session but now we've been off campus for so long so being on campus is a whole different struggle,” said Jordyn Betch, SDSU sophomore.

Colleges around the country are also struggling to address mental health that includes student suicides.

Earlier this month the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill paused classes for a Wellness Day after two possible student suicides.

"This is a major societal issue. It's a mental health tsunami and this is our kids,” said Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, Chair of the UNC Psychiatry Department.

The CDC reports nationwide suicide is the second leading cause of death among the college-age population.

In San Diego County, death by suicide overall is down from last year but Kidsdata.org sourced data from the California Department of Public Health Department and found from 2017 to 2019 suicides among 15- 24-year-olds rose from 45 to 65 in San Diego County.

San Diego State University said it did not have someone available to interview about the topic. On its website it has a mental health resource page including talking to a therapist.

UC San Diego did not respond with a request for resources. 

The University of San Diego shared its online resources that include:

  • Counseling services at USD are available around the clock, either through in-person counseling or virtually. The USD Counseling Center provides access to counselors 24/7 and in-person counselors are available Monday – Friday (8:30am-5pm) with extended hours until 6pm on Wednesday.
  • On Thursday, the USD community is invited to Thoughtful Thursdays for a 15-20 minute guided meditation.
  • QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer) Gatekeeper Training is available to students, faculty and staff which looks at-3 simple steps anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.
  • At USD, student wellness also includes collaborating with the University Ministry staff who offer spiritual guidance to USD students, faculty and staff.
  • For a look at more ways that students can experience wellness, you can learn more here.

At Miramar Community College, mental health counselors say students have been reaching out for resources.

“Yes, we’ve seen an uptick in the number of students that have reached out to us. Who are feeling very insecure and for some of those students feel like they don’t have resources and feel imprisoned in their homes,” said Marian Edelbrock, Ph.D., Miramar College Mental Health counselor.

The school offers Mindfulness Mondays for staff and students and safe activities on campus to keep students from isolating especially those who are still remote learning.

“It's on the colleges to really find those students and to really connect them and get them resources,” said Edelbrock.

She mentions work by Dr. Thomas Joiner's work, he's a leading expert in suicide at Florida State University. 

His interpersonal psychological model of suicide suggests there are three critical areas necessary for suicidal behavior:

  1. a perception of being burdensome and
  2. a low sense of belonging or of social alienation which when combined with an
  3. acquired ability found in high risk taking people, (such as those with high pain tolerance and fearlessness in the face of death – thus those that cut on themselves, do high risk sports, military members, etc) can be a lethal combination.

Edelbrock suggests colleges increase the sense of belonging – promote inclusivity, events, identity with cohorts and college, provide social connection apps like Nod. Miramar College says they won a two year contract to provide this for our students and are about to plan how to do use it, promote it, and roll it out.

Decrease sense of being burdensome – by increasing engagement in college life with others – faculty and students - in both classes and events to gain a  sense of personal value,

High risk students- provide safe places to do this, structure and guidelines that are reinforced by consequences and opportunities to have fun without self-harm

College students appreciate that mental health is being addressed but hope schools will do better in making it more accessible.

"I think definitely for college students mental health is a little bit of a struggle. I feel like awareness has gotten better but it's still lacking,” said Stephanie Rowsell, SDSU sophomore.

If you or someone who know might be at risk of suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 877-273-8255.

Remember is always helps and you can heal.

Other resources: 

San Diego Access and Crisis Line 1-888-247-2470, or Crisis Text Line - text HELLO to 741-741 24 hour support

Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255.

VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat, 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, text to 838255, or chat 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year

Parents Stress Line (a component of Parents Helping Parents; which includes a Parent Support Group) 800 632 8188

Sexual Assault/Intimate Partner Violence Crisis Line & Referral (Available 7 days a week/24 hours a week): 888 385 4657

The Trevor Lifeline (for LGBTQ youth): 858 277 9550

National LGBTQ Line: 866 488 7386

Courage to Call: 877 698 7838

Warm Line (available evenings; not available 24/7) 800 930 WARM 9276

Emotional-Support Help Line: 1-866-342-6892

WATCH RELATED: Children's mental health declared national emergency