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Why does the University not publicly disclose suicide statistics?

Even though ASU does not publicly report suicide statistics, multiple resources are available


Members of the ASK.LISTEN.SAVE suicide prevention club walk during the "Out of the Darkness" walk in Tempe, Arizona, on Saturday, April 1, 2017. 

A study published by the Associated Press earlier this year stated that ASU is one of 43 public universities out of the 100 largest colleges in the nation that does not track suicide statistics. 

But the Associate Vice President and Director of ASU Counseling Services, Aaron Krasnow, said ASU counseling does track the statistics internally — but they are not reported publicly. 

“We’re not focused on reporting the numbers to the public because they don’t give any information about the context for any suicide,” Krasnow said. “Reporting these numbers might be harmful because it highlights the death and not what can be done to help people.”

Krasnow said ASU follows the approach of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, meaning that it is the familiy's responsibility to publicly announce whether or not the death was considered a suicide, not the University's. 

Additionally, he said if no circumstances for the suicide are reported, the public could be confused about what the numbers mean. 

According to Michelle Mason, the board chair for the AFSP's Arizona chapter, information like age and gender of the victim can be reported instead of specific circumstances to minimize privacy concerns.

Mason said very few government  research dollars are spent on mental health issues, with the majority of funding going to HIV and cancer research. 

She said she recommends that colleges track and report numbers so they can better refine efforts to prevent suicides. 

“Numbers tell a story,” Mason said. “If we track the numbers and show we need more funding for mental health illness needs, that helps our goal of seeing a decrease in those numbers.”

The goal of the AFSP’s Arizona chapter is to reduce suicides by 20 percent by 2025. In order to achieve this, Mason said the chapter is fundraising for more research on mental illness, educating the community and advocating for legislative action. 

Seize the Awkward is one of the newest initiatives by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that specifically targets college-aged students, Mason said. The program seeks to spread knowledge about suicide and suicide prevention among young people through videos and an interactive website.

Aaron Krasnow said that even though ASU does not share the number of suicides on campus, it does have internal mechanisms to analyze data and emerging trends. 

ASU counseling has found that an effective tactic to prevent deaths by suicide is to help students early in their distress, he said. 

“The more we tell people that help is available the more likely they are to reach out for help, which prevents suicides,” Krasnow said. 

ASU counselors, psychologists and social workers must receive training in suicide prevention before being hired, he said. Additionally, an ASU suicide hotline is available for students through a partnership with Empact

According to the ASU website, 10.7 percent of students surveyed seriously considered attempting suicide.

The only student-run organization that focuses on suicide prevention at ASU is ASK.LISTEN.SAVE, said Emma Wheatley, the club's president and a junior majoring in justice studies and psychology.

The group, which is a mental health awareness and suicide prevention club, will host its annual “Out of the Darkness” campus walk on April 14. Wheatley said the walk is a fundraising event that is also meant to commemorate family members or friends lost to suicide. 

Funds collected in the months leading up to the event come from local company sponsorships, donations, club T-shirt sales and other fundraising activities. 

This year’s fundraising goal is $25,000, and the money raised will be used toward research and training in places like high schools and middle schools. 

Wheatley, who has experienced suicidal thoughts in the past, said she recommends all students get involved in the cause or at least get educated on the topic of suicide. 

“While not everyone may understand your individual struggles, that doesn't mean that there there isn't a support network for you, whether it is a family member, a friend or a stranger," Wheatley said. "This is such a huge pressing issue across the world, and whether you have been affected by it directly or indirectly, we all have to do everything possible to prevent it.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect an account of the source's experience with suicidal thoughts. It was last updated at 4:21 p.m. on March 18, 2018.

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