Suicide among top causes of death on college campuses

FLINT (WJRT) - (01/18/18) - Less than a month ago we saw Washington State's quarterback, Tyler Hilinski, take the field in a bowl game against Michigan State. Now his unexpected death is exposing a troubling fact about life in college.

"It's the second leading cause of death among college students, but statistically, in terms of numbers, we see around 1,100 students per year that may complete a suicide," said Tamara McKay, Ph. D. McKay is the Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Michigan-Flint.

Second only to accidental deaths, McKay says the statistic has been fairly consistent for about a decade. Despite the alarming number, she says there is a protective factor on campuses because students can get the help they need without any socioeconmic barriers to contend with. And despite suicide being a top cause of death on college campuses, the suicide rates are higher in the general population. At UM-Flint they offer free services for any student who may be struggling.

"It's a very new world to them and they're exposed to a lot of new ideas and thoughts, lifestyles, cultures that they're unfamiliar with and they're going to be changing - and so for parents - listening, looking for...specifically, are there any changes in your child's behavior and the things that they're saying," said McKay.

She says identifying warning signs like confusion, depression and isolation can be key, and you can always just ask.

"If you're concerned the best thing to do is to ask that person, make time to have that conversation and then share with them, 'These are some of the things you've said, some of the things I've seen that I'm concerned about. Are you thinking about suicide,'" said McKay.

If you're not comfortable with that direct of an approach, McKay says you can always support them as they seek out the help or even go with them to an appointment.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. The Genesee Health System Crisis line is (810) 257-3740. For more information on suicide prevention check out the website in the 'related links' section of this article.

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