Written by therapist Pete Marlow
College-age students were one of the populations hit hardest by the seismic shifts that have happened due to the pandemic. Their lives went from living independently on or off campus, going to class in-person, working jobs, and hanging out with friends, to being required to leave campus, move back home and quarantine, all while adjusting to virtual classes and getting their schoolwork finished on time with far fewer parameters. And those are just some of the academic concerns brought on by the pandemic. The number of individuals who report struggling with depression and anxiety increased in general and this includes students. Suicidal ideations, which can result from severe depression or anxiety, have long been a much talked about topic on college campuses. The pressure to perform in school, being away from family for the first time, and developing your identity are just a few of the stressors students face. Add a pandemic on top of all that, and the insecurity that comes with it and those stressors just gets amplified.
Statistics on Suicidal Ideation and Death By Suicide
The CDC performed a study shortly after the pandemic began in 2020 and reported that 25% of individuals aged 18-24 experienced suicidal ideations in the past month, which was more than double the 11% number for the population at-large. Unfortunately, many of these students are exhibiting behaviors that can be considered risk factors for increased risk of suicidal ideation. For example, the study reports 25% of 18-24 year-olds surveyed had increased their substance use since the beginning of the pandemic, and 75% reported having at least one mental health symptom. Additional statistics that are jarring, and were gathered prior to the pandemic even starting, include how death by suicide is the number-two leading cause for college students and that 40% know someone who has attempted suicide.
It’s important to know certain risk factors if you or someone you know is showing symptoms of depression or anxiety. This list is obviously not exhaustive.
Presence of Mental Illness: Often, persons who are showing symptoms of depression or anxiety never seek treatment. They don’t share their story with anyone else or receive adequate treatment and this leads to the second risk factor.
Isolation: To someone who is showing symptoms of mental illness, it can feel like they are the only one or that if they open up to someone about it, they will be rejected. This thinking leads to the person isolating themselves, which only amplifies their risk. The more a person is able to let others in on their story and receive support, the more likely they are to overcome it.
Risky Behaviors: These tend to increase during college as students experience greater freedom. They include lack of consistent sleep and substance use. Other factors like engaging in risk-related behaviors such as fist fights, or driving while intoxicated, are not specific to students, but are general risk factors that still apply to them.
If you are exhibiting some or all of these risk factors, and you are not in an emergency situation, contact a counselor at Optimum Joy today who would love to listen to your story and help you. If you are in an emergency situation, for instance, you are experiencing suicidal ideations and do not feel safe, please call 911 or go to the nearest ER. Remember that while sharing your story can feel intimidating, it is the path forward to healing.