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Evaluating College Campuses on Suicide-Prevention Resources

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Thursday, March 10, 2022   

The academic year is winding down for college students, and in South Dakota, some might notice a more responsive campus in terms of suicide prevention when they return this fall.

A new program will help schools evaluate mental-health resources. For nearly 12 years, the group Lost & Found has carried out suicide-prevention programs for young adults in South Dakota. It now offers a Campus Resilience Index, where a score card lays out prevention capacity for participating schools.

Erik Muckey, executive director of the group Lost & Found, said the tool allows administrators to see where they might have strengths, as well as gaps.

"What successful results could look like from this index is certainly more counselors," Muckey pointed out. "But the other side of this is also really focused on training: How many students are trained to provide peer support?"

In measuring each school, the index uses a CDC model detailing suicide-prevention strategies for campus settings.

Muckey noted they are preparing recommendations for one school right now, and hope to soon evaluate as many as eight other campuses in South Dakota and Minnesota. State health officials say the age group with the highest suicide rate is 20-29.

National surveys indicate a rising number of college students reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety. Muckey added the pandemic has brought more stress at a time when young adults are trying to adjust to college life.

"Especially for students who are first-generation college students, or for students who might already be presenting with mental health conditions before they arrive on campus," Muckey emphasized. "All of those factors, connected, all contribute to this underlying issue."

He worried the effects of social media, such as isolation, are a contributing factor as well. Efforts to expand the Campus Resilience Index recently got a boost through a new grant awarded by the South Dakota Community Foundation.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.


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