Mental Health on College Campuses


Grace Cairns, Scarlet Staff

TW: mental health, depression, and suicide 

In 2020, approximately 1.2 million American adults committed suicide. In the United States, around 1,100 college students take their own lives each year, making suicide the second-leading cause of death for that age group. To address this, many universities have mental health resources available on their campuses. They offer free counseling to students, and connections to mental health professionals off-campus. But what else can colleges do to prevent suicides among students?

This is a problem nationwide, and Worcester is no exception. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), seven students have died since July of 2021. Three of these deaths were confirmed to be suicides, and two are still being investigated. This number is uncommonly high and has been a tremendous shock to the community at WPI. Since then, the university has moved a lot of funding towards mental health resources on its campus. WPI has quickly developed and grown programs to ensure mental welfare for not just their students, but the employees at the school as well. WPI now has 35 people working as a task force for aiding in mental health and overall well-being struggles for people at the college. The university is also currently working on opening a center for mental health this year. 

Of students interviewed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, there was a consensus that academic pressure and competition are huge stressors. Colleges encourage academic rigor and rivalry to stimulate the highest achieving students on their campuses, this pressure can go too far. Clark University is not exempt from these pressures. The university recognizes these stressors and provides resources for students, but some may question if enough is being done. The Center for Counseling and Personal Growth (CPG) is offered to all students at Clark, providing both individual and group counseling for those in need of assistance. Clark also helps students find therapists and psychiatrists outside of the university. These programs are inarguably useful, but CPG is only available on weekdays, and sometimes it can be a difficult and long process to get in touch with someone who works there. In addition, these organizations advertise themselves as student-oriented only and seem to neglect staff at Clark that also may wish to seek out help. These programs have great intentions, but more can be put towards them. Clark University has not experienced the same tragedies as Worcester Polytechnic Institute, but being proactive and moving more funds toward campus mental health is better than waiting for the worst to happen.

Pressure to perform well in college is a major stressor on students. Transitioning from childhood to adulthood is difficult to begin with, but when this is paired with academic demands and competition between peers, the stress can affect a student greatly. Nationally, 16% of college students reported being diagnosed with depression. Out of students nationwide who have attempted suicide, 90 percent of them had already been diagnosed with a depressive disorder or substance abuse. In addition, college-aged men are four to six times more likely to commit suicide than their female peers. 

More needs to be done to end suicides on campuses. Colleges need to provide more resources to students and staff for their mental health. And as a society, significant work must be done to end the stigma around mental health. Only then can people start to discuss these problems without fear of judgment. Individually, we can look for the signs in those around us. If a friend is struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out and encourage them to get help. It is better to speak up rather than wait until it is too late.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255