Suicidal ideation, binge drinking impact student body

Lily Mae Lazarus, Managing Editor

Content Warning: The following article contains subject matter pertaining to suicide, substance abuse and addiction.

In a city with a bar on nearly every corner, Tulane University students enter college life juggling the adjustment to adulthood and easy access to alcohol. 

Nearly 80% of college students consume alcohol, and an estimated 50% of this population engages in binge drinking. Close to 20% of college students fit the description of having an alcohol use disorder.

TUPD
New Orleans has a long-established history relating to alcohol, but how does this affect the mental and physical health of Tulane students? (Josh Jessimen)

Drinking has become integral to the college experience especially at Tulane. However, alcohol use and disorders are linked with suicidal ideation and attempts.

A study in 2012 found that college students with suicidal ideation are more likely to binge drink and alcohol problems among college students are connected to increased rates of suicidal ideation and attempts. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college students and individuals between the ages of 18 to 22 are also the most likely demographic to abuse alcohol.

As of 2018, 81.7% of Tulane students reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days. That same year, 47% of undergraduates at the university reported engaging in high risk drinking in the last two weeks. 

Since August 2021, the Tulane University Policy Department has responded to at least 89 alcohol related calls due to highly intoxicated students requiring medical attention. This compares to 83 alcohol-related medical calls during the fall of 2019.

TUPD Chief of Police Kirk Bouyelas said that a large number of the students involved in these calls come from Tulane freshmen and sophomores who are experiencing New Orleans and Tulane for the first time since without many pandemic-era restrictions. 

“On a positive note a great number of these calls are generated from students out of concern for their fellow Tulanians,” Bouyelas said.  “We are encouraged that peer intervention and action is being practiced by our student body.”

During the first 13 weeks of the fall 2021 semester, TUPD also responded to 16 calls related to suicide. Three of these calls were attempted suicides and the rest were in response to students having suicidal ideations or expressing the desire to kill themselves. In July 2021, a Tulane medical student commited suicide.

According to Catherine Tyner, director of Case Management and Victim Support Services, there have been less mental health transports compared to fall of 2020. However, Tyner said that the disruption and displacement of students during Hurricane Ida and the continuing COVID-19 pandemic on top of the normal stressors of college have impacted the mental health of students.

“The addition of new stressors and situations to a young person can be particularly taxing to their mental well-being. When you add intoxicants the pressure builds exponentially,” Bouyelas said. 

Tulane has witnessed various waves of mental health crises. In 2015, Tulane witnessed a cluster of student suicides. In response to these tragedies, the university increased its promotion of available counseling services and created new support systems including The Line, a 24-hour crisis hotline.

“Mental health concerns are an issue on college campuses nationwide,” Tyner said. “We continue to see more students reaching out for support and treatment. This can be seen as a positive sign that stigma around mental health issues has decreased.” 

Today, Tulane offers a number of mental health resources to students. The Counseling Center is open to most degree-seeking students and all enrolled students can access initial consultations, care coordination and crisis support services through the university. Students can also access CMVSS, the Tulane Recovery Community, the Well for Health Promotion and the Office of Assessment, Intervention and Recovery.

“Any on-campus death is devastating and death by suicide even more so. Community members struggle to deal with feelings ranging from grief to anger to guilt …” Bouyelas said. “We are committed to working with our campus partners to provide enlightened education and meaningful engagement in an attempt to provide resources before a situation becomes tragic”

For Tulane students in need of support, contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 504-314-2277. The Counseling Center is open 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. The Counseling Center provides mental health counseling and other related services. 

Students in need of additional support can contact the Residential Adviser on call in their residence hall. Students may also call the on-call Case Manager at 504-920-9900.

For LGBTQ+ students, the Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to those under 25 and can be reached at 866-488-7386.

The Employee Assistance Program is available for faculty and staff seeking counseling or support. Information about Employee Assistance Programs can be found at https://hr.tulane.edu/benefits/employee-assistance-program.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.

All Tulane students can reach out to Case Management and Victim Support Services at 504-314-2160 for support.

The Tulane Recovery Community provides recovery-based programs and its resources can be found here.

For LGBTQ+ students, the Pride Institute offers LGBTQ+ dependency resources and can be reached at 800-547-7433 or here.