College Teen Suicides on Campus- Meritocracy

I have been following tragic news regarding college teen suicides at prominent schools in our area.

I also came across an article that just hit in Vox- The Problem with America’s Semi-Rich on meritocracy, the 90-99.9% wealthy Americans. The article describes the endless drive and hyper-focussedness of parents getting their kids into great schools.

I believe we are seeing a confluence of highly functioning parents (most with good intentions) that are implicitly or explicitly placing a lot of pressure on their kids during their admissions search to look at rankings, and prestige beyond fit and personal growth.

Let’s all once in for all decide as parents that it’s about fit and growth, not prestige and pressure.


I am amazed by the amount of comments on this site about wanting to go to a particular prestigious school(s). Why? I am telling my kids that it is important to find the best fit, not to worry about what others might think about their school choice.


I told my kids in college that there are lots of free stuff like music, clubs, learning centers, museums and mental health services. Every year I reminded them. I told them they could go and not tell us. Just get the help they need. Don’t know if they ever went. But both graduated alive.


Someone correct me if I’m wrong but I think this site was originally created as a place for students and parents to get information about applying to selective universities. It’s a great place for information for all parents and students but it can be a bit much for those whose goals are more modest and perhaps realistic.



But maybe the suicides have more to do with the sh!tshow we’ve been living through for the past several years. It’s hard for kids to be optimistic and easy to be depressed when you are living through a pandemic and may have had friends and family die, and you feel like the boomers have doomed the planet with climate change, not to mention politics. It’s hard for kids to have hope that the future will be better, y’know?

I think a LOT of people are dealing with a LOT of stuff right now. A friend of mine in her 60s just reposted this Tweet from Julia Ioffee my friend asked if it resonated with anyone else like it did with her:

Eighteen months into this pandemic, so many people I know are still feeling so down (myself included). One friend put it this way: the bad things are disproportionately destabilizing and the good things are insufficiently fortifying. Anyone else feeling this way?

I mean, people’s mental health everywhere is very fragile right now and I can see for some kids how it’s hard to stare down a lifetime ahead of you and be optimistic. That said, I do think there is reason for optimism — there are a lot of good people out there working hard to make this planet a better place — but it’s hard.

And yes to not stressing our kids out with getting in “the best” college. “Fit and growth” is a good motto and definitely more in line with what we are looking for for our D22. She doesn’t buy into all that stress culture anyway.

People need to practice kindness, for sure, and with themselves as well as others.


That’s not the current mission statement:

What is College Confidential’s Purpose?

From its inception in 2001, CC’s mission has been to help students and families navigate the college admissions process, better understand their options, and make more informed decisions. We want everyone to have access to timely information and tried-and-true advice to choose the right college.

Doesn’t say anything about it only being about “selective” schools.


There was a suicide at my daughter’s University a few weeks ago. Everyone who knew this person was shocked because they had no inkling they were suffering in any way. I think the negative mental effects of this pandemic are far and wide and it’s not being talked about enough.


Suicide is an equal opportunity plague. It impacts young people in the military (who are the age cohort of college students but who are not in college), it impacts HS drop-outs working low wage jobs and living at home, AND it impacts successful middle aged and elderly people. Suicide is a huge problem for physicians, for example, for reasons that are both well researched and understood (access to drugs, understanding of anatomy and the easiest way to kill yourself) and for reasons that are not (why would a high performing professional in a high status, well paid job, not just take a leave of absence and get into treatment for their mental health issues?)

I don’t think you can draw a straight line between parental pressure to get into college and suicide. The most recent suicide I heard about was a young man in the military… sadly, the combination of depression and access to a weapon was a deadly one. But college-related? This was not.


Unfortunately, for some parents it will never be anything but the chase for prestige.


Some facts. I don’t understand them. I am a physical scientist, not a social scientist. But they are facts.

  • College suicide deaths per 100,000 are a factor of two less than the general population of college-aged individuals.
  • This effect is entirely due to male suicide rates. Female suicide rates are roughly equal.
  • Student-athlete rates are an order of magnitude below that of students as a whole.

“My Ascension” is an interesting documentary about teen suicide. The main focus of the story is a 16 year old that attempts suicide and does not succeed but ends up paralyzed. She now works to help with suicide prevention.

Her story is similar to a family member’s of mine. She seemed happy to everyone around her. She had friends, activities, was good in school, etc. but her depression and anxiety started spiraling out of control so instead of looking for help she attempted suicide. My family member was the same. No outward signs. No huge red flags. No great pressures put on her besides just normal schoolwork & activities, definitely not an overachiever. Thankfully she also survived but not without permanent physical damage.

I guess my point is anxiety and depression can strike anyone at any time. It does not have to be an outside influence, although that can certainly exacerbate a pre-existing condition. Kids commit suicide for a million different reasons. Most that survive are happy that they did. But it can be a lifelong struggle and some will attempt again and again.


FOUR suicides at my sons university since Aug 10th. Devastating.

Another school that my friend’s daughter attends had 2 last week. It’s extremely disturbing.

I think we must be talking about the same school. Beyond sad.


And now i just learned at a high school a couple hours away from me there have been 4 different attempted suicides on campus.

To be clear in case folks don’t click through. One student died last weekend, but the other student who attempted suicide did not. I have not heard about the incidents being related in any way — don’t know if the students knew each other. There was an earlier death by suicide in early September.