Nationally, suicide kills more college students than alcohol, according to Turner’s study.
His study looked at data from 157 schools during the 2009-2010 school year. The research showed that for every 100,000 college students, at least six kill themselves each year. About five die from alcohol-related causes, including traffic injuries.
“That was very surprising,” Turner said.
His study also found that college students died less frequently than their peers in the general population. This indicates, Turner said, that colleges provide a protective environment.
With more data, more could be done.
“I would like to see some sort of national effort, perhaps by the Department of Education, to standardize the reporting process,” he said. “I don’t think you can rely on individuals to come up with their own standards.” Examples of Big Ten schools with detailed reporting procedures include Penn State University and the University of Maryland.
“I’m hoping that through our research, colleges understand how important mental health issues are on campus and put them in the forefront,” Turner said. “You need to do a lot more than educate about alcohol on campus. In fact, suicide is a lot more common cause of death. We need to carefully evaluate how we intervene.”