Spring 2010: Of Note
Alumnus Mark McLeod 82PHD builds awareness about students’ mental health
Suicide remains the second-leading cause of death among college students, with more than 1,100 suicides occurring on college campuses each year. In a 2008 assessment sponsored by the American College Health Association, one in three undergraduates reported feeling so depressed it was “difficult to function,” and one in ten reported that they “seriously considered” suicide.
By Mary J. Loftus
Psychologist Mark McLeod 82PhD, director of Emory’s Student Counseling Center, walks to work every day. He needs the time to clear his mind, reconnect, and sometimes, to stop and chat with students.
As the face of the Counseling Center, which recently moved to new offices on Clifton Road, he wants to make sure students see mental health care as accessible, convenient, and nonthreatening.
“Some perceive our students as an elite group that isn’t dealing with anything serious, but that’s not so,” McLeod says. “We deal with life-threatening issues more than any other office on campus.”
Depression and suicide attempts have been increasing at college campuses across the country, and Emory is no exception. In the past year, more than thirty students were hospitalized primarily for suicidal thoughts or behaviors—a 50 percent increase from four years ago. The University has experienced an average of one suicide a year.
The increase in hospitalizations, McLeod says, probably means more students are receiving help before it’s too late. The University recently received a three-year, $100,000 campus suicide prevention grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In recent years, the Counseling Center has increased outreach and education about suicide risks, provided online screenings, reached out to at-risk students, and hired additional staff. The grant will allow this type of outreach to continue, says its principal investigator, Professor Nadine Kaslow.
The University also added a $50 mental health and counseling fee for each student per semester in 2008. “If we are asking more students to come to us for our services, we must be able to meet that demand,” McLeod says. “This makes a clear statement that we address mental health needs in our community without embarrassment or anxiety.”