Suicide prevention on university and college campuses

We support awareness of and access to mental health and suicide prevention resources on university and college campuses.

About the issue

Mental health is central to student success and well-being.  Over the past decade, colleges and universities have made considerable efforts to promote how and where students can get help for mental health problems both on and off-campus.  Yet even when students know where to go for help, some remain hesitant to reach out.  Often students’ beliefs about suicide and mental health affect their attitudes and perceptions about help-seeking and their intentions towards pursuing available resources.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college students, but it is preventable.  Recent research suggests that colleges and universities need to make students more aware of available resources and services, and they should also take steps to change the culture and attitudes around the topics of suicide and mental health so that more students feel comfortable and empowered to seek help when in distress.

Where we stand

AFSP recognizes that increasing awareness of and access to mental health and suicide prevention resources, both on and off-campus, is a crucial step toward improving student health and well-being and reducing suicide.  Students, faculty, and staff should be notified at least annually of what resources are available and how to access them.  Furthermore, AFSP encourages colleges and universities to develop and implement policies and procedures for how to support students experiencing a mental health condition or suicidal crisis and to make those policies widely known and available to all students, faculty, and staff, to both improve access as well as encourage help-seeking.

Currently, AFSP is focused on supporting state-level legislation and regulatory efforts in order to reach the end goal for all 50 states to require such notification and policies on college and university campuses.

To learn more, read our Higher Education issue brief.

Additional resources

AFSP’s Interactive Screening Program (ISP) is an online tool for college and university counseling centers to reach out to students with significant barriers to help-seeking (fear and embarrassment), and encourage them to utilize available mental health services before crises emerge. ISP is listed in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center Best Practice Registry for Suicide Prevention and is an integral part of a comprehensive suicide prevention and mental health promotion strategy.

The AFSP-produced film It’s Real: College Students and Mental Health is an 18-minute documentary designed to raise awareness about mental health issues commonly experienced by college students.  Featuring the stories of six students from across the country, It’s Real conveys that depression and other mental health conditions are real illnesses that can be managed through specific treatments and interventions and encourages students to be mindful of the state of their mental health, to acknowledge and recognize when they are struggling, and to take steps to seek help.

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