Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States (Drapeau & McIntosh, 2015), as well as one of the leading causes of death for college-age students (Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2014). In a representative year, over 42,000 people die by suicide, which equates to approximately 115 each day. Not only is this a tragic loss of life, but research indicates that the ripple effect on campuses and communities can be equally devastating. Consider that for every suicide there are approximately 147 people who are exposed to the death, including 18 who experience a major disruption as a result of the suicide (Drapeau & McIntosh, 2015). When the impact of each suicide is considered in this way — approximately 750,000 people deeply impacted each year, as well as 6.3 million exposed in a year — it is no wonder why suicide is considered a significant public health problem among campuses and communities across the country.
In spite of the magnitude of this problem, suicide is preventable. In fact, the state of Ohio recently invested in statewide prevention efforts beginning with House Bill 28, which requires all public institutions of higher education to provide suicide prevention programming on their campuses. The best suicide prevention practices occur when campuses align strategies to identify at-risk students, increase help-seeking behavior, provide mental health services, promote social connectedness, and develop sound policies related to crisis management and restricting access to lethal means (The Jed Foundation, 2016). When administrators, staff, faculty, and students possess a shared vision to prevent suicide by promoting mental health and eliminating stigma around help-seeking, the likelihood of preventing suicide increases markedly.
The Ohio State University is one of a select number of campuses nationwide to house a standalone suicide prevention program. The OSU Suicide Prevention Program was originally founded through a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and it is currently funded through a partnership between the College of Education and Human Ecology and the Office of Student Life. The program works closely with other offices on campus to ensure that the mental health needs of our entire campus community are prioritized. We have collaborated on initiatives to improve the mental health and well-being of groups with an elevated risk of suicide, including male students, graduate and professional students, international students, and student veterans.
We believe that preventing suicide is a responsibility shared by the entire campus community. If you are interested in learning more about how to prevent suicide on campus and within our local community, consider attending a REACH training. REACH is an educational training in which participants learn how to Recognize warning signs, Engage a distressed individual with empathy, Ask directly about suicide, Communicate hope, and Help the individual access mental health resources. Nearly 10,000 individuals have been trained in REACH. To sign up, visit reach.osu.edu.
To learn more about what we are doing at OSU, or if you would like to get involved in other ways, please visit our website (suicideprevention.osu.edu) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow us on Twitter (@OSUREACH).
Matthew Fullen, M.A., M.Div., LPCC is an independently licensed counselor and doctoral candidate at The Ohio State University. He serves as Program Manager of The Ohio State University Suicide Prevention Program, which is now in its 10th year. Matthew has presented and published on community suicide prevention efforts for people of various ages. He can be reached at email@example.com.