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Survey: 1 in 5 College Students Stressed, Considers Suicide

depressedstudent218One in five college students reported thoughts of suicide in the previous year, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, which is associated with Harvard Medical School.

Brigham and Women’s hospital investigators queried more than 67,000 college students from across more than 100 institutions and found that while racial/ethnic, sexual or gender minorities are especially vulnerable, high rates for stress events, mental health diagnoses and the risk of suicide were reported among all students surveyed.

The survey asked students a variety of questions related to depression and anxiety, including whether they had been diagnosed or treated for a mental health issue; if they had engaged in self harm, considered suicide or attempted suicide; and how many stressful events they had experienced in the last year.

Stressful life events, defined as exposures that the student felt were traumatic or difficult to handle, included a variety of life challenges. The life events were defined as academics, career-related issues, death of a family member or friend, family problems, intimate relationships, other social relationships, finances, health problem of family member or partner, personal appearance, personal health issue and sleep difficulties.

The team reports the following:

  • Rates of stressful life events were high and associated with mental health issues. Three out of four students reported having experienced at least one stressful life event in the last year. More than 20 percent of students reported experiencing six or more stressful life events in the last year. Stress exposure was strongly associated with mental health diagnoses, self-harm, and suicidality.
  • Mental health diagnoses and suicidality were common. One in four students reported being diagnosed with or treated for a mental health disorder in the prior year. One-fifth of all students surveyed had thought about suicide, with 9 percent reporting having attempted suicide and nearly 20 percent reporting self-injury.
  • Sexual minorities showed elevated rates of mental health disorders and suicidality/self-injury. Transgender students showed particularly elevated rates of all outcomes, with approximately two-thirds reporting self-injury and more than one-third attempting suicide. Over half of bisexual students reported suicidal ideation and self-harm, with over a quarter reporting attempted suicide.
  • Rates of concerning mental health symptoms are higher now than they were the last time the survey was given. Among gay/lesbian and bisexual students, rates were higher than the 2009 administration of the survey for suicidal ideation (57.8 vs. 47.7 percent), suicide attempts (27.6 vs. 25.3 percent) and self-injury (51.4 vs. 44.8 percent).
  • Mental health issues may be underreported for racial/ethnic minorities. Despite a higher likelihood of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, Asian students reported a lower rate of mental health diagnosis compared to white students. Black students showed a lower likelihood of reporting all outcomes compared to white students.

The authors note that all these rates are based on self-report, and that there may be a response bias among those who received the online surveys.

Read the full news release on Psych Central online.

Source: Psych Central | Survey: 1 in 5 College Students Stressed, Considers Suicide, https://psychcentral.com/news/2018/09/11/survey-1-in-5-college-students-stressed-considers-suicide/138516.html | Copyright © 2018 Psych Central

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