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Why it Matters

Gannett Health Services
110 Ho Plaza
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-3101

Tel: 607 255-5155
Fax: 607 255-0269

Survey data provide a quantitative perspective of complex human experiences

  • Much of the data gathered at Cornell via routine surveys point to typical developmental challenges (e.g., situational depression, anxiety, identity issues).
  • Other findings are more troubling.
  • While suicide is more common among 15-24 year olds not enrolled in college, suicide is still the second leading cause of death among college students. In fact, suicide among youth and young adults has increased more than 200% in the last fifty years.
  • At Cornell, a variety of student data illustrate the need for caring community members to identify and support students in distress.

The 2011 Cornell PULSE  (Perceptions of Undergraduate Life and Student Experiences) Survey was administered to all undergraduate students during spring, 2011. A total of 6,821 students responded, resulting in a 51% response rate. Findings included the following:

  • About 40% of students reported being unable to function at least once during the last year.
  • Approximately 8% of respondents reported having seriously considered suicide at least once during the last year.
  • Just over 1% of students—a total of 80 individuals—reported having actually attempted suicide at least once in the last year.

These responses, and those from other campus surveys, reflect national trends regarding student mental health. At Cornell, such data have prompted a variety of mental health initiatives, including:

  • the formation of the Council on Mental Health and Welfare
  • a commitment to mental health promotion
  • increased outreach and support to high-risk students
  • a growing network of faculty, staff, and students prepared to "notice and respond"