Letter: Campus suicide prevention needs to improve

Since 2010, the suicide rate among young adults has been steadily increasing; however, nobody can accurately say how many of those recorded are student suicides. This year has seen several student suicides across Ontario campuses, including at the University of Waterloo and the University of Guelph, but despite a  plea from medical professionals, neither universities nor local coroners are keeping track of how many campus suicides happen per year.

According to Statistics Canada, which only keeps track of suicide rates by sex and age group, approximately 438 individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 died by suicide in 2013, and this number is continuing to increase.

Many universities are attempting to focus on mental health awareness, and providing better resources to students struggling with mental illness. Although it’s great that campus-goers have more people to talk to and more resources, student suicide isn’t just about being reactive. Not enough information is being gathered on student suicide to properly address the greater issue. Psychologists have pleaded with local government and universities to keep more detailed records and statistics on campus suicide, but as of yet, no changes have been made.

Universities, local coroners, and Statistics Canada need to be investigating student suicide by keeping better data about those who died. To be proactive in fighting mental illness on  Ontario campuses, we need to provide health professionals with the information they need to develop a better solution to the increasing suicide rate.

Many Canadian university students struggle with working part-time jobs and going to school full-time, on top of the pressures of maintaining a social life and social media presence. For most students, balancing these activities can be difficult and frustrating at best. For an individual already struggling with mental illness, adding the stresses of school and work can be nearly debilitating.

As a society, there needs to be more acceptance and understanding for people with mental illness. By starting at the root of the problem and getting society more involved in the fight for mental health, perhaps universities and coroners would start taking student suicide more seriously and look into campus deaths so we can prevent them in the future.

As a small dysfunction in a larger societal issue, moving our local institutions to commit more resources to suicide research may be the difference between life or death.

Mental illness should be considered just as important as any physical ailment; to address this growing problem, universities need to start doing their part in providing accessible health care, and research into preventing student suicide. Aside from this, professors need to be more accommodating to students who are struggling with mental health issues when dealing with exam exemptions and deadlines.

Although there are many things universities could be doing to help promote mental health awareness, they need to start with the most simple answer to a growing problem, keeping track of the issue, and being aware of it themselves.