Are Video Games Making College Students Suicidal?

In recent years, there has been a mental health epidemic on college campuses across the country as suicide has become the second leading cause of death among college students in the U.S. Why? Well, we are still trying to determine why.

It’s possible that college students feel more comfortable seeking help in the first place, as they have most likely had some form of treatment when they were younger and the suicide statistics are soaring because college counselling centres are not adequately equipped to meet the demand for mental health care. Some believe over-parenting to be the culprit, affecting students’ adaptability and resilience now that they are independent. It could also be the anxiety student loans and a dried up job market have been known to cultivate in fresh, young minds. Could it also be video games?

A new study suggests that students who play many hours of video games–action video games, for specificity’s sake–may be more capable of acting on suicidal thoughts. In “The Relationship Between Video Game Play and the Acquired Capability for Suicide: An Examination of Differences by Category of Video Game and Gender,” Sean Mitchell, Danielle Jahn, Evan Guidry, and Kelly Cukrowicz, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, found no significant association between overall hours of video game play and acquired capability for suicide (ACS), and gender did not make a difference. However, when focusing on the action category of video games, the relationship between hours of game play and acquired capability for suicide became significant.

“When conducting suicide risk assessments, it is imperative that clinicians assess not only frequency of game usage, but also category of games most frequently played,” says Editor-in-Chief Brenda K. Wiederhold, PhD, MBA, BCB, BCN, Interactive Media Institute, San Diego, California and Virtual Reality Medical Institute, Brussels, Belgium. “This may assist in improved detection of students at increased risk for lethal self-injury.”

While there are a multitude of reasons for why suicide is rampant on college campuses, we urge you to err on the side of caution and cut back on the action video games while you can.

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