Ohio College Counseling Association assesses suicidality among college students

Jessa Schroeder

The Ohio College Counseling Association hosted a seminar at Kent State University-Stark on Friday to address suicide lethality among college students.

The seminar provided clinicians with guidelines to conduct appropriate comprehensive assessments, information on ways to better provide clients with resources and referrals as well as a more effective planning and treatment framework.

Jason McGlothlin, associate professor in Lifespan Development & Education Sciences, led the presentation, while encouraging collaboration and input from experienced clinicians from across Ohio who were in attendance. The group worked together to develop groundwork in safety planning and risk assessment of suicidal patients.

McGlothlin addressed reasons why college students are at a high risk for suicidal ideation during the presentation.

“One of the things we see with young suicidal clients is their issue with learning to cope with troubleshooting,” said McGlothlin. “Emerging adults, or college students, are often looked at as unstable at some degree. That is not to label all college students as unstable, but they oftentimes have a separate distinctive mindset. They want to belong, fit in and be accepted by their peers.”

Psychology professor at Clark University, Jeffrey Arnett, developed the concept of emerging adulthood, which analyzes common characteristics of 18 to 25 year-olds.

According to Arnett, the five features of emerging adults are as follows:

  • Age of identity exploration. Young people are deciding who they are and what they want out of work, school and love.

  • Age of instability. The post-high school years are marked by repeated residence changes, as young people either go to college or live with friends or a romantic partner. For most, frequent moves end as families and careers are established in the 30s.

  • Age of self-focus. Freed of the parent- and society-directed routine of school, young people try to decide what they want to do, where they want to go and who they want to be with–before those choices get limited by the constraints of marriage, children and a career.

  • Age of feeling in between. Many emerging adults say they are taking responsibility for themselves, but still do not completely feel like an adult.

  • Age of possibilities. Optimism reigns. Most emerging adults believe they have good chances of living “better than their parents did,” and even if their parents divorced, they believe they’ll find a lifelong soul mate.

McGlothlin said the main type of suicidal clients they see have something called cognitive constriction; people are so narrowly focused on negative aspects in their life to the point where suicide may be the only option they see.

“For kids that might have chronic suicidality,one thing may go wrong and they may wake up in the morning, spill their coffee or stub their toe, something we would perceive as minor; but in their mind this may trigger feelings that all is wrong in their life,” McGlothlin said.

Students with a sense of cultural, family, societal or religious connection, are shown to have a lesser risk of suicidal tendencies.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, “The suicide rate has been about 4 times higher among men than among women. In 2013, men had a suicide rate of 20.2, and women had a rate of 5.5. Of those who died by suicide in 2013, 77.9% were male and 22.1% were female.” McGlothlin said these drastic differences relate to the objective that it is not socially acceptable for men to have emotional issues, leaving these problems unrecognized and untreated.

The suicide rates by race/ethnicity in 2013 show the highest U.S. suicide rate being among Whites and the second highest rate among American Indians and Alaska Natives, according to the AFSP.

McGlothlin said growing links to suicide in youth are shown to be directed in those of the LGBTQ community, as they are twice as likely to attempt suicide. Other growing links are in people struggling with mental health problems such as alcohol or substance abuse, depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-injury, insomnia, excessive caffeine intake and sexual dysfunction.

According to the CDC, “Suicide is the third leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years, and the second among persons aged 25-34 years.”

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or visit their website for help or more information. 

Contact Jessa Schroeder [email protected]