Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students adults, according to the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report.
Additionally, 31.3 percent of college students in 2013 felt too depressed to function at some point within the previous 12 months, according to the National College Health Assessment II done by the American College Health Association.
With depression becoming more prevalent in society and in the college community, students can be faced with a variety of challenges. These can range from personally dealing with depression to recognizing and assisting other individuals who have depression.
Laurie Wesely, assistant director at Counseling Services, said one sign of depression or other mental health changes is behavioral alterations, such as missing more class than usual or a withdrawal from activities that are normal for that individual.
“When you’re looking at any kind of depression or anxiety or anything going on, you want to look for changes,” Wesely said.
According to the Annual Campus Security and Fire Safety Report, 90 percent of people who commit suicide displayed some form of a warning sign beforehand. Being aware and taking notice of these signs can help prevent suicides.
One resource that students and faculty have access to is reporting the concern to the Office of Student Life. This can be accomplished by filling out the Student of Concern reporting form on the Office of Student Life’s crisis assistance web page.
From there, the office can follow up with the individual of concern in way that adequately represents their situation.
“I make the determination about how we want to reach out to the person whose been reported,” Laurel Moody, office manager for the Office of Student Life, said. “So what that reach out looks like could be different for each person.”
While Moody said the majority of their concerns come from faculty, the form is open for everyone. The form addresses many types of concerns under the three major categories of academic, personal or physical concerns.
“We want people to feel like they can report anything they have concerns with, with a student,” Moody said. “Those are all things that if a student was struggling with, we would definitely want to know so we could reach out and offer them assistance.”
Jenna Tripodi, coordinator, advocate and educator for the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education, said that simply addressing a friend about their changes in behavior could help.
“Many people that I’ve worked with that have experienced depression report feeling very isolated,” Tripodi said. “So if it’s someone who they trust who’s coming to them to talk, they might be very receptive to that.”
Jessica Haymaker, also a coordinator, advocate and educator for CARE, said that one thing students can always do is to take notice of the people in their surroundings and possibly reach out.
“Don’t let people exist in your class, or in your sorority or fraternity or whatever student group or environment you’re in, don’t let them exist in isolation,” Haymaker said.
In fact, 55.9 percent of college students in 2013 felt “very lonely” at some time within the previous 12 months, according to the National College Health Assessment II.
Tripodi said there are still stigmas regarding mental health that may not encourage students to seek out help.
“If you don’t feel well, it’s normalized you go to Lafene and you assess, ‘What is going on with me?’” Tripodi said. “But when it comes to mental health, we have this buck up attitude that’s not always really helpful.”
One thing that Wesely said can make a difference is simply listening to the concerns of a student with depression.
“I guess the best way to help a friend is to listen,” Wesely said. “Sometimes I think we as a society can forget how powerful that can be to really, truly listen.”
Another aspect to consider, however is the urgency of the situation. For example, if a student is beginning to talk about self-harm, that could be an indicator that more needs to be done to help his or her situation.
“If you’re not sure, I would err on the side of caution,” Wesely said. “Either see if you can get them to walk to some kind of help with you, offer to help them as much as you’re comfortable or call someone.”
Suicide and suicidal thoughts are a reality. In Kansas, the rate of suicide was higher than the national average and there were approximately three times as many suicides as there were homicides in 2013, according to a fact sheet published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
If the severity of the situation seems unclear, Wesely said students can make appointments with Counseling Services to discuss whether or not the student may need more help.
“We can also provide that consultation to help people decide,” Wesely said.
Another resource that is provided by campus is the At-Risk training program, which allows students to become familiar with signs of depression and suicide and how to recognize and handle them among fellow peers. The training is online and the link can be found on the Counseling Services website under the “Students” tab.
According to Haymaker, it is also important that students develop an awareness of their own body in order to watch for signs of depression in themselves.
“I think that takes time, and it takes intention,” Haymaker said.
If students feel as if they themselves could be suffering from depression, there are additional online resources like the University Life Cafe game. The game allows the user to connect and form a community with other students who may be in similar situations.
Every K-State student also has four free counseling sessions, so making an appointment with Counseling Services is another option. Wesely said if a student reaches out to the Office of Student Life or Counseling Services, the faculty will help.
“People will work to try to connect students to where they need to go or what might be helpful,” Wesely said.
Overall, there are resources for a multitude of circumstances relating to depression or suicidal thoughts, and there are things students can do to help one another. Students can begin to seek out resources on the Office of Student Life web page or Counseling Services websites.