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On-campus suicides on the rise

Study shows 1 in 12 college students said they made suicide plan

DETROIT – Talking about suicide with their kids isn't something parents look forward to, but statistics suggest more than 1,000 students who head off to college in the next few weeks will commit suicide on campus.

Katrina Tagget lived a spirited childhood filled with fun, family, sports and school. She was excited to start her career at Michiagn State University, and she excelled. But at 21 years old, Tagget took her own life, one of hundreds to do so every year.

Clinical psychologist Dr. Donna Rockwell said many college kids are in crisis.

"How do I measure up? Do I fit in?" Rockwell said. "So I think there (are) all of those things that contribute to this rising suicide rate on college campuses."

Studies show one in four college students said they have been so depressed, it is difficult to function. One in 12 students said they have made a suicide plan. One in 100 said they attempted suicide.

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"There is a psychological term called foreclosure, where a person around 19, 20 years old all of a sudden decides my life doesn't really matter," Rockwell said.

WDIV-TV in Detroit, KSAT 12's sister station, sat down with a family who's discussing the issue. While in college, Hannah Peterson saw four students take their own lives in one year at Appalachian State University.

"Hearing that one of your peers actually ended their life because, you know, they couldn't adjust or they felt like they had no friends, I mean, it's really, really sad and it's scary," Peterson said.

Her parents decided to expand their family talks to include suicide.

"We were most concerned about drinking and smoking pot, and the suicide situation wasn't one we really talked about much," said Hannah's dad, Brett Peterson.

"I said, 'You're going to be homesick, and eventually this is going to become your second home. You're going to have a life that you've made for yourself,'" said Hannah's mom, Maureen Peterson.

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Experts say parents need to look for warning signs like mood swings, lack of sleep and hopelessness, and let their kids know about counseling services at home and on campus. Experts say parents should support who their child is, not how they stack up to others.

They should stay in contact with their kids while they are away, but without over-pressuring them. Experts say many students are seriously stressed out from helicopter and lawn mower parents.

"They totally don't leave them alone," Rockwell said. "They ride them, and this is just very dangerous."

Below is a list of helpful resources parents can print off and send with kids as they head off to college over the next few weeks.