Opinion | What the UI can do to prevent suicide as we transition to pre-pandemic campus life

It is important for UI to implement these suicide prevention measures as the return to normalcy can be hard mentally for college students.


The Daily Iowan

The Active Minds at University of Iowa Counseling Services hosts the Field of Memories in the Pentacrest on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. Students are asked to sign each flag, which represent the number of students who kill themselves each year, with an encouraging message to show that they care.

Ally Pronina, Opinions Columnist

The emotional toll that college can have on someone takes away the life of too many students.

The suicide rate among people between the ages of  15-24 has tippled since the 1950s, according to the American College Health Association. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students. Lucklly, there are things the University of Iowa can do to prevent the tradegy of suicide from occuring on campus.

An article by the Education Development Center discusses what college campuses can do to prevent suicide. Some ideas include are surveys to asses mental health among students and clear procedures on what to do if a suicide does occur — which is a timely topic to talk about as students come back on campus.

The surveys can give the UI a better idea of how many students have mental health problems, how they feel about using campus resources, and if they have a support system to turn to. Admitting mental health struggles, especially when they are so severe as to the point of wanting to die, is not easy. Surveys which allow students to admit they need help over a computer screen instead of face to face can help someone reach out for help who might not have otherwise.

A clear procedure on what to do if a suicide does occur can help prevent copycat suicides and the initial suicide from triggering someone else into having suicidal thoughts. For example, this could include letting students who were close with the person withdraw from the semester at any point without any penalties. Also, letting students know resources nationally and on-campus which can be utilized if someone needs it.

Alcohol abuse, being away from friends and family, and the stress which comes with college are factors which increase college students’ risk for suicide.

It is no secret the UI is a party school. Addressing this issue of drinking on campus, such as having social activities on campus which don’t include alcohol on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, could also help prevent suicide.

Students who have been home for more than year due to COVID-19 could be at an increased risk for suicide this upcoming semester because they will now be away from their famly and hometown friends, a situation they have not been in since March 2020. Classes returning in person also bring back the regular college stressors by taking away the flexibility of being able to watch online classes whenever. Stress also increases a college student’s risk for suicide.

It’s important for us as students to get the message from university faculty and administrators that it is OK for us to take care of ourselves as we transition to life before the pandemic, which for some may be going home every weekend because being home during the pandemic makes you homesick easily. Or, it could be to take 12 instead of 15 credits because certain aspects of in-person classes are stressing you out.

Lastly, UI can prevent suicide by decreasing the stigma, so more people seek help. Society tends to dismiss people who commit suicide as selfish and overlook how much one must be hurting in order to end his or her life. The UI opening up the opportunity for suicide survivors to talk about thier experences, if they are comfortable, can help the Hawkeye community realize this.

The vast amount of suicides among college students is heatbreaking, but there are ways UI can prevent suicide. The message that someone cares and your life matters is never wasted.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.