Psychological problems on rise

The news: The campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University became the scene in April of America’s deadliest shooting after student Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old South Korean immigrant, killed 32 people and then himself.

Behind the news: The shooting appears to embody a grim trend among young adults nationwide.

In a 2006 survey published by The International Association of Counseling Services, 92 percent of directors from 367 counseling centers at American and Canadian colleges and universities said they believed that “severe psychological problems” have increased among students in recent years.

And suicide ranked third among the leading causes of death for people between the ages of 20 and 24, with 12.5 suicides occurring for every 100,000, according to a 2006 National Institute of Mental Health study.

Some college counselors in the Chicago area said that psychological problems could afflict any students, regardless of their race or ethnicity. But, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, there are varying suicide rates among different groups in the general U.S. population. The highest suicide rate was recorded among white people, with 12.9 suicides per 100,000, followed by 12.4 per 100,000 among Native Americans. African Americans held the lowest rate with 5.3 per 100,000, followed by Asians with 5.8 per 100,000 and Hispanics with 5.9 per 100,000.

Meanwhile, studies have shown that the suicide rate among college students has been significantly lower at 7.5 per 100,000 than 15 per 100,000 for those not at college but in the same age range.

Jeffrey Lanfear, director of university counseling services at DePaul University, said college campuses offer large social networks that can provide students with the help they need. At DePaul, for example, staff members and student leaders, such as residential assistants, are trained to identify students with potential psychological issues and inform them on various campus resources. “It helps students get over obstacles so they can graduate and go on to fulfill their mission in life,” he said.

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