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Comprehensive Approach: Promote Social Networks

In both the general and college student populations, research has consistently shown that loneliness and isolation are risk factors for suicide, suicidal behavior, and mental health problems, while supportive social relationships serve as a protective factor against these outcomes.  In adolescents, feeling connected to their school is also protective against suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers “connectedness” to be so critical that its 5-year strategic direction for preventing suicidal behavior is focused on “building and strengthening social bonds within and among persons, families, and communities.”

Efforts to facilitate social connection should go beyond simply encouraging individual students to “get involved.”  For example, many campuses have developed smaller “living and learning communities,” where students have the opportunity to live with other students who share their interests and have increased interactions with faculty outside the classroom.  Other schools have dedicated space in their student unions or equivalent for specific groups (e.g., international students) to meet and socialize together.