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Study: 1 in 5 college students has considered suicide

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CLEVELAND, Ohio – College is a busy time for many young adults and it can also be a very stressful time. A recent survey shows that as many as one in every five college students has considered suicide.

Scott Bea, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic, did not take part in the study, but said young adulthood is often a perfect storm for stressors to get the best of us, but too often, we don't talk about it.

"We do know that that developmental stage of college-age kids - late adolescence, early adulthood is a really challenging time. People are struggling with their identity, with becoming independent, with managing problems with their moods, anxiety, and suicide can have a place in their thoughts at times, and unless we're actively asking about it, we're not going to know about it," Bea said.  

"During young adulthood, our brains are still developing, and we aren't always equipped with the ability to handle stressors effectively when they begin to pile up," Bea said.

"People can often act on an impulse during an acute crisis," Bea said. "And because young adults and teens tend to be more impulsive, they might not always think to reach out for help before acting.

Some people are self-aware and can recognize when they're not feeling right, but sometimes, it takes a friend or family member to recognize it first.

Feeling fatigued, withdrawing from social activities, feeling like sleeping all of the time, constant worry and feeling frightened of the future are all signs that someone is struggling.

"Planning for mental health should be part of the college send-off plan, because there's always a possibility that students will experience stressors that weren't predicted," Bea said. "And don't be afraid to check in with them regularly and ask about their emotions, not just their academics.

The study by Cleveland Clinic shows any young adult can be at risk for suicidal thoughts, but shows that those who are among racial, ethnic, sexual or gender minorities are at highest risk. 

"Its vital to make sure students have mental health resources readily available, and that they know how to access them," Bea said.

"Ask about their well-being and how they're adjusting to the emotional stress of being away; to the emotion of college and the demand on them," said Bea. "Know where those resources exist within the university system, so they can plug into that system or even external resources - therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists - that might be useful for them.

Complete results of the study can be found in Depression and Anxiety.