As we are approaching the beginning of the collegiate (NCAA) football regular season and fall semester classes, I couldn't help but think about Ohio State University football player Kosta Karageorge who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in November 2014. Prior to his death, Karageorge texted a message to his mother in reference to his struggles with symptoms from concussions.
I'm also reminded of Elon University football player Demitri Allison who committed suicide by falling from a 10 story dormitory window on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus last November. After Allison missed a team breakfast and classes one morning at Elon, his teammates, friends and family asked law enforcement to look for him because they were concerned for his well-being and emotional state.
Although sports-related concussions/brain injuries could have played a role in these two particular suicides, I chose to address the increase of suicides on college campuses across the nation.
According to the American College Health Association (ACHA), more than 1,100 college students commit suicide yearly on campuses across the U.S. — a number that has been steadily climbing each year over the past few decades.
Also, according to Yahoo Global News Anchor Katie Couric, college students are reporting that they’re more depressed and anxious than ever before and are pouring into overwhelmed college counseling centers for help, often waiting weeks for appointments. Universities are attempting to respond but haven’t kept up with the crisis.
This should concern everyone, especially since suicides have surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years nationwide.
Although the suicide rate among NCAA athletes appears to be lower than that of the general and collegiate population of similar age, a recent study found that NCAA male athletes have a significantly higher rate of suicide compared with female athletes, and football athletes appear to be at greatest risk.
I'm not by any means insinuating that the lives of student-athletes are more important than the general collegiate population, but the pressure to perform at high levels, round-the-clock media attention, the amount of money at stake for institutions and a number of other daily class demands can take a mental and emotional toll on an athlete.
Suicide is often the result of multiple risk factors. Having these risk factors, however, does not mean that suicide will occur. Some of the risk factors researchers identified include the following:
History of previous suicide attempts
Family history of suicide
History of depression or other mental illness
History of alcohol or drug abuse
Stressful life event or loss (e.g., job, financial, relationship)
Easy access to lethal methods
History of interpersonal violence
Stigma associated with mental illness and help-seeking
College students and athletes, please utilize ALL resources available to you.
If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
Also, If you are having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor. Use that same number and press 1 to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.