Suicide awareness deserves greater emphasis on college campuses

As September draws to a close, a light must be shed on one of the critical issues discussed during this month. 

September is suicide prevention month, of which many individuals are not aware. This is where a major problem lies. On college campuses across the country, including Geneseo, the month passes with very little attention paid to suicide prevention efforts.

While we have a “Suicide Prevention & Mental Health” page on the Geneseo website, it is extremely difficult to find the most crucial information. In an emergency, clicking through multiple PDFs and other links just isn’t plausible. Geneseo needs to create a more user-friendly website for mental health in order to quickly relay instructions for those in need.

Geneseo’s website does, however, instruct an individual to call 9-1-1 or campus police when dealing with a suicide emergency. This is important information, but at that point, it’s oftentimes too late for the victim. There must be more resources in place to help prevent suicide attempts from occurring at all.

“Today’s college students seek campus counseling services more often than any other generation in the modern history of the United States,” The Atlantic reported in 2016. This means more students are reaching out for help, which is positive, however, it still puts a strain on campus resources. 

The core reason most campuses are lacking in suicide prevention techniques is because they are understaffed, and their staff is frequently under-qualified. Campuses reported having one licensed mental health provider on average for every 3,500 students, according to a 2015 national survey in Scientific American. In turn, this means the one person with training doesn’t handle most of the suicide-related emergencies. The burden often falls on campus security and college administrators, and they aren’t always properly trained to deal with issues surrounding suicide. 

A solution to this—other than funneling more money into the health and counseling services on campuses, which is not an option at all schools—is to provide appropriate training for those who may need to confront these specific emergencies. 

Due to the size of many campuses, it is extremely difficult for faculty to recognize those who may need help, especially when most faculty members are not trained in spotting the behaviors that might signify a greater issue. This is the kind of information that would be useful to have on Geneseo’s website, making it available for both faculty and students. 

In 2004, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center suggested that “a screening instrument might be administered at colleges and universities as part of the first year orientation and the collection of health-related information about students.” 

In other words, in order to pinpoint the students who need suicide prevention-related resources, professionals should talk to all of the incoming students before the school year begins. This type of practice at colleges would certainly be a step in the right direction to prevent suicide among students.

Suicide will always be an issue found on college campuses. There is no way to change that. There is, however, a way to educate people, and by extension, prevent some attempts. The first step is to talk about this issue. September—suicide prevention month—has come and gone, just as fast as the rest of 2017 will fly by. College campuses must provide more accessible resources with a detailed website focusing on mental health. In doing so, they may just be able to save someone’s life.