Starting this Monday, the state of New Jersey has implemented a new law regarding suicide prevention designed especially for college students. The law is named after Madison Holleran, a student-athlete, and scholar who committed suicide in 2014 during her freshman year.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a 1,000 college students in the United States commit suicide each year and it is the second-leading cause of death in young people. Most individuals who decide to take their own lives do so because of mental health issues, depression being one of the main culprits. It can take root in everyone, even those who appear to others as leading fulfilling lives. Such was the case of Madison, a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania student who did not show any signs of depression, according to her family and friends.
The CDC has stated that although New Jersey still has one of the lowest suicide rates in the country, its number of cases is increasing faster than the national trend, according to data from 2014 which is the most recent available. New Jersey’s suicide rate is 8.8 for 100, 000 people, a 13 percent increase since 2008, with three out four suicides being committed by young people. The overall rate in the US is an average of 13 cases in 100,000 people.
In an attempt to stop the rise of these numbers, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed the Madison Holleran Suicide Prevention Act into law. It requires colleges and universities to have trained mental health experts on staff, who will be available non-stop to help suicidal students. The bill managed to pass thanks to wide support in the state legislature, and it also requires higher education facilities to notify their students about this resource every semester.
The mental health experts stationed in a college must also work with the faculty and the other staff to develop ways to recognize the warning signs of depression and suicide contemplation in students.
The law has received general praise from a number of doctors and health officials, which consider it a model for other states to follow. Although this law is a step in the good direction, to reach its full efficacy colleges and universities need to create a culture in which being depressed does not impose a stigma on students. This way, they will be more open to discussion about their emotional states with friends, family, and experts.
Have you know someone who committed suicide because of depression? Do you think the suicide prevention law will help students?
Image source: Madison Holleran Foundation