Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students

“In the high intensity programs on campus, journalism is one of them,” Counseling Center Director David Wallace said. “There is a high level of expectation.”

On average, 1,100 students across college campuses nationally commit suicide, according to Active Minds, an organization intended on creating a more active dialogue about mental health among students. The National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that one in four students have a diagnosable mental illness.

“I think there's a lot of pressure with being in college, to keep up your grades,” Freshman Emily Bosak said about depression among college students. “But also to be involved in a lot of clubs and have a lot of friends and I think it can just get to a lot of people, and overwhelm them sometimes.”

According to statistics released by the American Association of Suicidology in early 2015, Missouri’s suicide rates are significantly higher than the national average. Missouri’s rates of suicide were at a rate of 15.9 suicides per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 13, placing Missouri 18th in the nation.

The Counseling Center, Wellness Resource Center, Ask-Listen-Refer program and Suicide Prevention Coalition are all resources on campus aimed at combating one of the leading causes of death among college students, coming in second only to car accidents.

Bosak said she is aware of counseling centers and suicide prevention resources that can be utilized by students on campus.

The Counseling Center is “direct intervention” for students who are contemplating suicide or are suffering from suicidal thoughts, Counseling Center Director David Wallace said. He said assessing the urgency of the problem is the clinic’s preliminary action when dealing with a student who is at risk.

Students who enter the center with suicidal thoughts receive immediate counseling “to help them work through that and bring them to a place where they are not suicidal anymore,” Wallace said.

The Counseling Center has crisis intervention services in addition to an after-hours call program where anyone who calls the center can reach a licensed counselor.

“The closer we are to someone saying, ‘I’m actually going to do this, I’m going to actually end my life,’ then we have to take appropriate steps, all the way up to we might have to send someone to the hospital and get them the help they need in a more intense kind of environment,” Wallace said. “Sometimes that’s what’s needed; sometimes it’s necessary to help people in that way.”

The pressure of perfection can also factor into mental health problems on campus.

Students with perfectionist tendencies who are highly motivated to excel academically are more inclined to suffer from depression and anxiety, Wallace said. He said journalism is often a major that puts this pressure on MU students, and that there is a cultural inclination to push harder when stressed.

“It can be hard for people to juggle everything, because you think that you are going to have so much more free time because the classes are more spread out but, in actually, there are so many more things that everybody has to do,” freshman Julia Saak said.

Some stress can be positive and act as a motivator, Wallace said. However, when that stress reaches an overwhelming peak, negative thinking is often associated to reduced self-esteem.

Despite the prevalence of mental health issues on college campuses, Wallace said stigmas regarding mental health are still present on campus.

“I think it's present in the whole society and it permeates everything,” Wallace said. “I think we have language that we use, derogatory phrases, that we use about people with mental health problems. It’s so flippant and so easily expressed and it’s very important that we talk about some of those words and say, ‘This is what we need to do away with.’”

Wallace eliminated a common misconception people have when addressing an individual suffering from depression and considering suicide.

“There is no way in the world, you can talk somebody into suicide,” Wallace said. “I think people worry about that ‘If I bring it up, that will put the idea in their head.’ No. It just doesn’t happen that way.”

He said if someone has suspicions that an individual may be contemplating suicide the best method of addressing it is directly.

“Asking directly we know doesn’t push people at all over the edge; it brings them back from the edge,” Wallace said.

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