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Scope of the Problem

To build momentum for prevention efforts, campuses should start by examining current research and available data on campus suicide, mental health and substance abuse, and the associated consequences. This information will help colleges and universities to implement strategies that address the known risk and protective factors for suicide among those students most at risk.  Mental health and substance abuse problems that are associated with suicide and other adverse outcomes affect a substantial proportion of college students and can negatively affect students' academic performance and quality of life.

Suicidal Thoughts and Attempts

The following chart shows rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts among young adults in the past 12 months for the ye ar 2012.*

For more information, see the Suicide among College and University Students in the United States Fact Sheet.

 Undergrads only Undergrads + grads combined Not enrolled in college full - time, ages 18 – 22 **
Seriously considered suicide6.6% – 7.5%7.1% – 7.7%9.0%
Made a plan2.2% – 2.3%2.3%3.1%
Attempted suicide1.1% – 1.2%0.6% – 1.2%2.2%

*A range of rates means two sources were included. A single rate means only one of the sources had that data.

** Matched by age, sex, and race

Suicide Deaths

The following chart draws on three studies of college and university students and compares their s uicide rates to those of the general population, matched by age, sex, and race.

All numbers are per 100,000 people.

StudyDates studiedStudents (undergrads and gradsGeneral population
Big Ten Student Suicide Study 11980 – 19907.510.04.515.023.76.4
Schwartz 21991 – 20046.6N/AN/A12.6N/AN/A
Schwartz 32004 – 20097.

Consequences of Student Mental Health Issues

Mental health problems can negatively affect many areas of students' lives. Students with mental health difficulties may suffer from a decreased quality of life that can severely impact academic achievement, physical health, satisfaction with their college experience, and their peers and family members. Learn More »


Scope of the Problem References

1 Silverman, M. M., Meyer, P. M., Sloane, F., Raffel, M., &Pratt, D. M. (1997). The big ten student suicide study: A 10-year study of suicides on Midwestern university campuses. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 27(3), 285–303.

2 Schwartz, A.J. (2006). College student suicide in the United States: 1990-1991 through 2003-2004. Journal of American College Health, 54 (6), 341-352.

3 Schwartz, A. J. (2011). Rate, relative risk, and method of suicide by students at 4-year colleges and universities in the United States, 2004–2005 through 2008–2009. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 41(4), 353–371.