UW-Madison working to finalize a database to track students’ cause of death, including suicide

UW-Madison working to finalize a database to track students’ cause of death, including suicide

Almost one in every 10 University of Wisconsin-Madison students have thought about committing suicide.

Statistics like this one have led the university to create a system to keep track of the cause of death for students and how many students take their own lives.

Suicide has become the second leading cause of death for college students. UW officials hope by keeping track of the lives lost, they can better improve their mental health services and save students’ lives.

“We’re hoping that it adds to the body of knowledge and understanding and the ability to look at patterns and trends,” said Nancy Ranum with University Health Services.

Surveys show increasing rates of anxiety and depression among college students.

Data from the UW Healthy Minds survey in 2016 shows 9 percent of students have thought about suicide. Twenty-seven percent have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

“For 31 percent of individuals in our database, the cause of death is not known. So this won’t help us only understand suicide rates, but other causes of death such as accidents,” said Ranum.

UW-Madison is one of 43 of the largest 100 schools in the United States that doesn’t currently track student suicides.

The U.S. Department of Education asks colleges to collect data on student deaths, but not suicides specifically.

Other Big 10 schools that already collect this information include the University of Illinois, University of Minnesota and Ohio State University.

UW-Madison officials are currently finalizing the database and said it should be ready by the spring.

Government officials in at least three states, including New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington, are pushing to require universities to collect suicide information, but none have seen success so far.

University Health Services has a 24-hour crisis hotline. An on-call counselor is available every day, including weekends and holidays, to speak with anyone thinking about suicide or concerned for the well-being of a friend. The number is (608) 265-5600 (option 9).