Whenever I hear about a suicide on a college campus, I find myself wracking my brain for what colleges should be doing to take care of their students. It became even more real yesterday when I learned about a suicide that took place this past weekend on my oldest daughter’s campus, Washington University in St. Louis.
There is no denying that our college kids are under intense pressure. They are under constant siege from very real threats to their future–whether it’s climate change, the never-ending global pandemic, or an uncertain economy. Many are wondering why they should be working so hard when their goals and dreams may be thwarted. The isolation from Covid has lessened, but many kids still feel the effects; many are struggling to find and form deep friendships. And so many college students–juniors especially–feel like they were robbed of a typical college experience.
As families are thinking about which colleges are best fits for their kids, I encourage them to ask college and universities some key and crucial questions:
How is the campus working to build community and reduce isolation among students?
How is the campus attempting to reduce the overall stress that their students experience?
What services and supports does the counseling center provide?
Is there crisis counseling available 24/7?
Are there waiting lists to get appointments?
Are there appointments available on weekends or during evenings?
How often are students able to see therapists? Once a week?
Are there caps on the number of sessions a student can have?
Can the counseling center provide any information on outcomes?
Are referrals to outside providers available? Is it convenient for a student to get to those referrals?
How is the campus attempting to reduce mental health stigma?
If there have been suicides, how has the university responded?
It’s also important to find out if colleges are part of the JED Foundation. JED partners with colleges to strengthen their mental health and suicide prevention programs. Over 270 colleges participate in JED Campus and receive guidance on creating comprehensive systems, programs, and support. Go to https://www.jedfoundation.org/ to learn more. Additionally, is there an Active Minds chapter on campus? Is it active? (Active Minds is an organization that supports mental health and awareness on college campuses).
Please do not be shy about asking these questions. Colleges and universities are charged with taking good care of our children. It’s a massive responsibility these days for sure, but we need to make sure that they are putting everything in place to make their college environment as nurturing and supportive as possible.
I help students and their families navigate the college admissions process. I empower students to figure out who they are and where they belong, and I provide structure, insight, and enthusiasm as we find colleges that are the best fit academically, socially, and financially. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a 30 minute complimentary session to learn more!