It’s time to be proactive when it comes to student mental health.  

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in Ohio for people age 15 to 34. As the student suicide crisis rises in numbers each year, solutions shouldn’t be reactive.

In a study by Ohio State University, about 80 percent of students feel a sense of belonging at the university, but what about the other 20 percent? At a campus as big as Ohio State’s, a sense of belonging may be hard to find, which is one major factor that leads students to consider taking their own lives, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Luckily, Ohio State offers about 1,500 student organizations and on-campus activities to help make the massive campus feel like a smaller community. There is a student organization for everyone, with categories such as activism and awareness, community service, creative and performing arts, religion, Greek life, sports and recreation and more.  

Taking things to the next step, implementing Ohio State’s RUOK? Buckeyes Program into student organizations might help students struggling with mental health. The program identifies students at risk of suicide and encourages them to seek help.

This could change the stigma of seeking out mental health care and destroy the perception of feeling like a burden that students seeking help feel while creating a helping and thoughtful community among students and faculty.

As reported in the Columbus Dispatch, a student at Ohio State, Nicole Collier, struggled with her mental health and told friends she didn’t want to live any longer.

Once Collier learned how to use the mental health services at Ohio State she began to see a change in her behavior. She noticed campus slowly turn into a “culture of care,” which made a healthy impact on her mental health and ultimately helped her overcome her suicidal thoughts.

Collier is not the only student to face these struggles. In fact, 1 in 5 students struggle with their mental health enough to consider suicide, according to HealthDay. At a university the size of Ohio State, this means around 13,000 students face mental health challenges enough to consider suicide each year.

Implementing RUOK? Buckeyes into student involvement on campus could help reduce those numbers and beat the statistics. Building awareness of the RUOK? Buckeyes program will help students find the resources they need for themselves or others facing mental health challenges.  

The National Council on Disability found numerous benefits of providing mental health services and support on college campuses. The study showed evidence of students who sought out help with improved academic performance, an increase in reduced stress and resilience, reduced substance abuse and suicide rates and even an economic benefit for colleges.

Students seeking mental health care also noticed changes of perceived social support and campus connectedness, which can help the 20 percent of Ohio State students who might not feel connected with campus.

Building campuswide awareness of the RUOK? Buckeyes program and the services they have to offer students will change campus culture entirely. Suicide impacts everyone, and it is unknown whose life it may take next. Knowing the signs of at-risk students may change their lives before it’s too late.

Additionally, counselors say about 75 percent of students seeking mental health services at Ohio State say they “would not have done so without engaging with an interactive screening program such as RUOK? Buckeyes,” Ohio State’s suicide prevention program website said.

Among the many on-campus events and student organizations at Ohio State, implementing RUOK? Buckeyes program can help prevent student suicides and bring awareness to the signs of at-risk students and the programs and services that can help students overcome their mental health struggles.  

It’s time to prevent student suicide before it’s too late. On-campus activities and the involvement of RUOK? Buckeyes can help if we start now.