With campus suicides up, a push to discuss mental health

WASHINGTON — A recent New York Times article has shed an unfortunate light on the pressure some students feel to be perfect — to have the best grades, the most friends and the coolest Instagram pics.

The report led with Kathryn DeWitt, a University of Pennsylvania freshman who was going to kill herself until another freshman — Madison Holleran — committed suicide first. Holleran was the third UPenn student in 13 months to commit suicide.

Elsewhere, the Times reports, Appalachian State lost three students and Tulane lost four. There were six suicides at Cornell University in the 2009-10 academic year, and five New York University students killed themselves in 2003-04. The suicide rate at MIT is higher than the national average, the Boston Globe reports. Last year, three students committed suicide at George Washington University.

Is there a way to stop the trend?

“What we need to be thinking about is giving our students the opportunity to share what may be going on with them,” says Allison Malmon, founder and executive director of Active Minds. “If they’re struggling and know where they get help as soon as they need it.”

Also, she says, students should know they don’t have to be so pristine. “It’s OK not to feel perfect all the time,” Malmon says. “It’s OK to reach out for help.”

Parents of those diagnosed with mental health disorders should speak openly with their children. “Inevitably, it’s gonna happen to you, and it’s happen to your family, so just make sure your kids know that it’s OK to talk to you about it.”

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