Similar to the experience of Hannah Baker in the popular Netflix series, “Thirteen Reasons Why," many college students struggle with feelings of helplessness every day. Every year more than 1000 college students die from suicide. It is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24 according to a report by Emory University.
In an article titled "Shedding stigma to stop suicides on college campuses," by journalist Kelly Wallace of CNN, statistics are used to demonstrate that suicide rates on college campuses are at an all-time high. Wallace states that nearly eight deaths per 100,000 students are suicides. She also states that approximately 31 percent of students who sought counseling in the 2013 to 2014 school year stated that they had considered suicide at some point in their lives. That number was just 25 percent five years prior.
Transitioning into college is never easy, especially when the student lives out of state. You no longer have anyone to hold your hand, or protect you. The transition from Massachusetts to North Carolina has been incredibly hard for me. I struggled every day with depression and anxiety, and had no idea where to go or what to do about it. For some reason, at college there tends to be a negative stigma associated with mental health and mental health services, and students push away from seeking the help they truly need.
But why? How can we as the Elon community decrease the rates of suicides and revoke this stigma about mental health?
As a new student at Elon, you are required to complete the two online courses for Alcohol Education and Haven to inform you on how to handle situations involving alcohol and/or sexual assault. First year students are also required to take a one credit class titled “Elon 101” which helps students with the college transitioning process. Though these online courses and "Elon 101" are very informative and helpful, there is no program for mental health.
After creating a survey and sharing it with my sorority sisters and the Elon class of 2020, I received amazing feedback about how students believe Elon could improve their mental health services.
Of the numerous students that took this survey, all of them said that they themselves either struggle with anxiety or depression, or they have a loved one that suffers. But approximately 30 percent of students admitted that they did not want to seek help at Elon.
Roughly 65 percent of students surveyed said Elon does not do a good enough job promoting their counseling services along with their suicide/help hotlines. Out of the students that did seek help while struggling, many had comments about how unsuccessful their experience was.
While a few of the responses were positive, the vast majority of them were negative. One anonymous student said, “I have depression and generalized anxiety disorder. I went to counseling services at the beginning of the year and they basically told me that they can’t provide what I need for counseling. In addition, I didn’t feel comfortable with the counselor I was assigned, but wasn’t sure how to request another one. Because of this, I haven’t gone back.”
Of the students that took this survey, 96 percent of students that took the survey believe that Elon needs to improve their counseling and mental health services. If this doesn’t show that something needs to change, I’m not quite sure what does.
Toward the end of this survey, I focused more on how students think the Elon community can improve this flaw and how to educate incoming students. Seventy-seven percent of students think that having some form of mandatory session of suicide awareness and prevention education could be beneficial to incoming first-year students.
How do we do this?
Fifty percent of students surveyed believe that suicide awareness and prevention education during the course of Elon 101 could be helpful to the new members of the Elon community.
By implementing some sort of suicide awareness/prevention education, Elon’s students will be informed of the symptoms of anxiety and depression and how to properly identify if someone may be experiencing such symptoms. Also, by improving Elon’s counseling services and further promoting them, we could provide students a safe place to turn to when feeling hopeless and alone.
So I am asking the community to help me implement a better suicide prevention and awareness education on our campus. Together we can eliminate this stigma, help those that are suffering and most importantly, save lives.