Crisis on campus? Suicides increase sharply among students

Ming Mei Ip on YouTube last July.

The death of Concordia student Ming Mei Ip, 24, at its downtown campus Feb. 15 has highlighted the issue of the mental health of university students, and youth, as a whole.

According to media reports, Ip went public with her struggles online, including YouTube and a blog.

Several other suicides by university students have also taken place recently, shockingly also on campus. A student committed suicide at the University of Toronto in its computer room just last month. According to a Global News report, at least two other suicides took place on the campus in the last year.

Media reports of student suicides have sharply increased around the world in the last several years. Consider some relatively recent headlines, just from Canada:

• “How many Ontario post-secondary students die by suicide each year? No one knows for sure.” (Toronto Star)

• “Youth suicide in Canada: ‘It’s like cancer’”(TheSpec.com)

• It doesn’t feel human’: Students angry U of T not acknowledging campus suicides.” (CBC)

One common thread of these stories is that some universities are overwhelmed in their attempts to deal with mental health issues, as the students in question seek help.

But what are the factors? In the case of Ip, she expressed her issues with self love, body image and hopelessness, according to a Montreal Gazette story.

Harassment on social media has also been a factor for young people in general, as well as standard direct bullying.

But there are many other factors — a Grazia Daily article from the UK sums them up.

“While certain environmental pressures have always existed for students — debt, exams, navigating a new social sphere — today there are arguably more than ever before,” the article says. “Once you’ve solved the existential riddle of deciding what you want to do with your life, you have to scavenge your way into a highly competitive job market, where decently paid graduate roles are few and far between.... financially, politically and even socially — we are in a state of high flux where control is barren.

“For an already volatile 20-something, it can feel like that recurring nightmare where you’re screaming at the top of your lungs and nobody hears you.”

And suicide numbers amongst youth in general in this country are alarming. According to a Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation, “more than 5,800 Canadian children and youth have died by suicide during the past 13 years across Canada.”

All indications are a full-blown crisis amongst university students and youth in general is taking place, not just in Canada but globally.

Some resources for those in need include the Canada Suicide Prevention Service at 1-833-456-4566 (Text: 45645), Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868, and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255). As well, thelifelinecanada.ca is a “guide to help university [students] cope with an emotional crisis which may occur as part of your university experience or as a part of the unpredictability of life.”

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