Countless studies show that there is currently a mental health epidemic facing college students across the nation.
A survey conducted by the American College Counseling Association, or ACCA, found that more than half of college counseling visitors have save psychological problems, an increase of 13 percent in two years.
Parallel to other national college mental health data, the survey also concluded that anxiety and depression, in that order, are the most common health diagnoses among college students.
According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the number 2 leading cause of death among those ages 15-24 and that the suicide rate among adolescents and young adults has increased “modestly but steadily” since 2007.
Over the past two decades, several universities across America have experienced what psychologists refer to as “suicide clusters,” which is defined as multiple deaths in close succession and proximity.
In 2015, Tulane University lost four students to suicide and Appalachian State lost three.
Penn State had six students commit suicide over a 13-month stretch from 2014-2015.
From 2003-2004, 5 New York University (NYU) students leapt to their death. Cornell lost six students to suicide from 2009-2010.
And according to Kelsie Miller, a Counseling Outreach Coordinator for the Students Helping Others Reach Excellence (SHORE) program on Coastal’s Campus who spoke with Chanticleer reporter, Genelle Thompson, CCU has also seen its share of student suicides over the last 5 years.
With a majority of these suicide clusters happening at top-ranked schools, it is easy to speculate that the infamous high-stress, hyper-achieving environment that many ivy-league schools are known for is linked in some way.
Director of Counseling and Psychological Services for the Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization geared towards promoting emotional health and preventing suicide, and the Associate Director of Gannett Health Services at Cornell University Gregory T. Eells told HuffPost Live, that this could be due to something he calls “social perfection.”
Eells explained that because today’s younger generation are so attuned to social media, many feel the need to appear perfect across various platforms, which can potentially be as damaging to the person posting the image as it is to the people engaging with it.
“Social perfection can be a very toxic concept because it’s something that we internalize,” said Eells. “It’s not as if you really think I have to be perfect. It’s that I think that you think I have to be perfect.”
He explained that striving to be perfect causes one to miss out on the chance to improve oneself through recognizing personal imperfections.
“Part of being human is that we all make mistakes,” said Eells. “We really can develop a growth mindset, which is when there are those setbacks, they’re opportunities for growth. They don’t mean you’re a failure, they don’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. They’re an opportunity to learn and develop some sense of resilience and develop some adaptability.”
This feeling of a need to achieve perfection that many college student’s currently face has created a shift in the way young adults handle conflict and cope with challenges.
Counselors at various colleges across the nation have reported noticing this change and have concluded that many college students no longer know how to fail.
Based on an article published in Counseling Today, a publication of the American Counseling Association, helicopter parenting is partly to blame.
This style of parenting describes a parent, or parents, who have a “helicopter-like tendency to hover over children and swoop in to rescue them at the first sign of trouble.” This parenting style ultimately prevents children from developing “independence and resiliency,” thereby hindering them both emotionally and academically, later in life.
A combination of being raised by overprotective parents and being surrounded by culture of hyper-achievement, there is no mystery why mental illness and suicide rates among adolescents and young adults are on a constant incline.
The sad reality is that national data on campus suicide and depression show that one in four adults experience mental illness in a given year, two-thirds of students who are struggling do no seek help or treatment and more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from all other mental illnesses combined.
Because of the prevalence of these issues among college students, it is important for their peers, as well as faculty and staff, to know the facts, warning signs and how to help.
Coastal’s Counseling Services provide several different outlets to aid with mental illness and suicide prevention, but students must take the first step to get help.
October is suicide prevention month, so be sure to be aware of the facts and keep an eye out for awareness events hosted by COAST, the Counseling Outreach Advocacy Student Team and Counseling Services.