Stress was strongly associated with risk for suicide attempts and mental health diagnoses in college students, according to survey data published in Depression and Anxiety. Sexual and gender minorities were at particularly high risk for suicidal ideation and self-harm.
Researchers abstracted data from the Spring 2015 American Health Association-National College Health Assessment, which assessed psychiatric diagnoses and suicidality in undergraduate students at 108 institutions (n=67,308). Captured sociodemographic characteristics included age, race/ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and relationship status. Researchers also assessed prevalence of self-harm, suicidality, and depression and anxiety diagnoses in the cohort.
Mental health diagnoses were common, with 24.9% of surveyed students reporting being diagnosed or treated for 1 or more disorder in the prior year. Additionally, 19.8% of students reported self-harm and 9.3% reported having attempted suicide. Transgender students had particularly elevated risk for mental health diagnoses and suicidality, with 62.8% reporting a mental health diagnosis, 65.1% reporting self-harm, 68.4% reporting suicidal ideation, and 38.2% reporting suicide attempt. Bisexual students also reported higher rates of mental health disorders and suicidality compared with both heterosexual and gay/lesbian students (odds ratio range, 1.9-2.4; 95% CI, 1.1-3.4). Racial and ethnic minorities were less likely to report mental health diagnoses compared with whites, although likelihood for suicidality varied. Researchers noted that cultural factors and stigma may have caused lower rates of seeking help among racial/ethnic minority students.
These data highlight the urgency of allocating proper psychiatric resources to college students, particularly those who belong to minority groups. Additional research is necessary to elucidate the precise means of intervention that would be helpful for students.
Liu CH, Stevens C, Wong SHM, Yasui M, Chen JA. The prevalence and predictors of mental health diagnoses and suicide among U.S. college students: implications for addressing disparities in service use [published online September 6, 2018]. Depress Anxiety. doi:10.1002/da.22830