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Suicidal behaviors are prevalent among college students; however, students remain reluctant to seek support. We developed a predictive algorithm to identify students at risk of suicidal behavior and used telehealth to reduce subsequent risk.
Data come from several waves of a prospective cohort study (2016–2022) of college students (n = 5454). All first-year students were invited to participate as volunteers. (Response rates range: 16.00–19.93%). A stepped-care approach was implemented: (i) all students received a comprehensive list of services; (ii) those reporting past 12-month suicidal ideation were directed to a safety planning application; (iii) those identified as high risk of suicidal behavior by the algorithm or reporting 12-month suicide attempt were contacted via telephone within 24-h of survey completion. Intervention focused on support/safety-planning, and referral to services for this high-risk group.
5454 students ranging in age from 17–36 (s.d. = 5.346) participated; 65% female. The algorithm identified 77% of students reporting subsequent suicidal behavior in the top 15% of predicted probabilities (Sensitivity = 26.26 [95% CI 17.93–36.07]; Specificity = 97.46 [95% CI 96.21–98.38], PPV = 53.06 [95% CI 40.16–65.56]; AUC range: 0.895 [95% CIs 0.872–0.917] to 0.966 [95% CIs 0.939–0.994]). High-risk students in the Intervention Cohort showed a 41.7% reduction in probability of suicidal behavior at 12-month follow-up compared to high-risk students in the Control Cohort.
Predictive risk algorithms embedded into universal screening, coupled with telehealth intervention, offer significant potential as a suicide prevention approach for students.
Although non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is known typically to begin in adolescence, longitudinal information is lacking about patterns, predictors, and clinical outcomes of NSSI persistence among emerging adults. The present study was designed to (1) estimate NSSI persistence during the college period, (2) identify risk factors and high-risk students for NSSI persistence patterns, and (3) evaluate the association with future mental disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STB).
Using prospective cohorts from the Leuven College Surveys (n = 5915), part of the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative, web-based surveys assessed mental health and psychosocial problems at college entrance and three annual follow-up assessments.
Approximately one in five (20.4%) students reported lifetime NSSI at college entrance. NSSI persistence was estimated at 56.4%, with 15.6% reporting a high-frequency repetitive pattern (≥five times yearly). Many hypothesized risk factors were associated with repetitive NSSI persistence, with the most potent effects observed for pre-college NSSI characteristics. Multivariate models suggest that an intervention focusing on the 10–20% at the highest predicted risk could effectively reach 34.9–56.7% of students with high-frequency repetitive NSSI persistence (PPV = 81.8–93.4, AUC = 0.88–0.91). Repetitive NSSI persistence during the first two college years predicted 12-month mental disorders, role impairment, and STB during the third college year, including suicide attempts.
Most emerging adults with a history of NSSI report persistent self-injury during their college years. Web-based screening may be a promising approach for detecting students at risk for a highly persistent NSSI pattern characterized by subsequent adverse outcomes.
This study investigates associations of several dimensions of childhood adversities (CAs) with lifetime mental disorders, 12-month disorder persistence, and impairment among incoming college students.
Data come from the World Mental Health International College Student Initiative (WMH-ICS). Web-based surveys conducted in nine countries (n = 20 427) assessed lifetime and 12-month mental disorders, 12-month role impairment, and seven types of CAs occurring before the age of 18: parental psychopathology, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, neglect, bullying victimization, and dating violence. Poisson regressions estimated associations using three dimensions of CA exposure: type, number, and frequency.
Overall, 75.8% of students reported exposure to at least one CA. In multivariate regression models, lifetime onset and 12-month mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders were all associated with either the type, number, or frequency of CAs. In contrast, none of these associations was significant when predicting disorder persistence. Of the three CA dimensions examined, only frequency was associated with severe role impairment among students with 12-month disorders. Population-attributable risk simulations suggest that 18.7–57.5% of 12-month disorders and 16.3% of severe role impairment among those with disorders were associated with these CAs.
CAs are associated with an elevated risk of onset and impairment among 12-month cases of diverse mental disorders but are not involved in disorder persistence. Future research on the associations of CAs with psychopathology should include fine-grained assessments of CA exposure and attempt to trace out modifiable intervention targets linked to mechanisms of associations with lifetime psychopathology and burden of 12-month mental disorders.
Although non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) is an issue of major concern to colleges worldwide, we lack detailed information about the epidemiology of NSSI among college students. The objectives of this study were to present the first cross-national data on the prevalence of NSSI and NSSI disorder among first-year college students and its association with mental disorders.
Data come from a survey of the entering class in 24 colleges across nine countries participating in the World Mental Health International College Student (WMH-ICS) initiative assessed in web-based self-report surveys (20 842 first-year students). Using retrospective age-of-onset reports, we investigated time-ordered associations between NSSI and Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-IV) mood (major depressive and bipolar disorder), anxiety (generalized anxiety and panic disorder), and substance use disorders (alcohol and drug use disorder).
NSSI lifetime and 12-month prevalence were 17.7% and 8.4%. A positive screen of 12-month DSM-5 NSSI disorder was 2.3%. Of those with lifetime NSSI, 59.6% met the criteria for at least one mental disorder. Temporally primary lifetime mental disorders predicted subsequent onset of NSSI [median odds ratio (OR) 2.4], but these primary lifetime disorders did not consistently predict 12-month NSSI among respondents with lifetime NSSI. Conversely, even after controlling for pre-existing mental disorders, NSSI consistently predicted later onset of mental disorders (median OR 1.8) as well as 12-month persistence of mental disorders among students with a generalized anxiety disorder (OR 1.6) and bipolar disorder (OR 4.6).
NSSI is common among first-year college students and is a behavioral marker of various common mental disorders.
A growing body of research has focused on understanding what may contribute to cessation of self-injury. Although these efforts are of value, cessation represents just one component of self-injury recovery. Exclusive or primary focus on cessation may foster unrealistic expectations for those with lived experience of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI). Accordingly, this commentary discusses the importance of expanding the concept of NSSI recovery beyond cessation in both research and clinical domains. We conclude by presenting a person-centred and non-stigmatising conceptual reframing of recovery.
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