Newby: Suicide intervention needs to expand across college campuses

Suicide contemplation increases and action must be taken in order to intervene.


Wyatt Dlouhy

The Old Capitol building is seen in 2018.

Taylor Newby, Opinions Columnist

Suicide ranked as the 10th leading cause of death in the United States across all ages in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — creating a decrease in the overall life-expectancy rate for Americans.

The statistics climb higher across national reports and statewide surveys and one thing remains clear: The problem of suicide is pressing. And not only that — it is prevailing. Death by suicide is overwhelming students anywhere from middle-school hallways to students navigating college campuses.

Recently, the Iowa Youth Survey released its 2018 report, revealing a 53 percent increase since 2012 in the number of students ages 12 through 18 who had made a plan to kill themselves in the previous 12 months.

Among university and college students, suicide is the second leading cause of death — falling behind accidental injuries and ahead of cancer. And the problem continues to persist.

To combat the crippling weight of stress, anxiety, depression, and ultimately suicide, warning signs need to be made known in order to be recognized and then acted upon — as soon as possible.

If we aren’t paying attention to the pain students are undeniably wrestling with, then we won’t be able to intervene at the most crucial moments.

Senate File 2113 is set to be implemented in July across all of Iowa’s K-12 school systems — in which staff, faculty, and anyone with any sort of  role in the school system will be required to participate in mandatory training, centered on “suicide prevention and the identification of adverse childhood experiences and strategies to mitigate the toxic stress response,” according to the bill.

Recently, the Iowa Youth Survey released its 2018 report, revealing a 53 percent increase since 2012 in the number of students ages 12 through 18 who have made a plan to kill themselves in the last 12 months.

The training requires school systems to adhere to protocols for suicide prevention and postvention — which is based on the best practices that are recognized nationally.

School systems are also set to intervene among traumatic events that potentially occur throughout a person’s childhood — inflicting negative, damaging, or permanent effects on an individual’s well-being.

The bill offers a firm foundation for confronting the issue among the large number of people who grapple with anxiety or depression — and then, the large number of people who contemplate taking their own lives.

RELATED: Newby: Suicide prevention comes from regular people

This bill is imperative in addressing the heart-wrenching reality of suicide among younger generations. It fails to expand across university and college campuses nationally, where suicide remains the second-leading cause of death.

While the University of Iowa has done this on its own, it’s critical that other colleges and universities across Iowa follow in its footsteps.

Because in order to intervene in a way that is most  helpful to students, similar action must be taken across college and university campuses.

As a community of students, faculty, and family, it is imperative that we link arms and make room for a conversation that is as delicate and heavy as this — while partnering our priority of accessible and achievable help with action.

Even if training is not required for people paired with college or university campuses, knowing the warning signs of toxic stress and suicidal contemplation is needed to make our campus into a safer place.

“Together, we build self and community resiliency. Together, we recover,” said the National Alliance on Mental Illness website.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please don’t hesitate to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-271-8255.