Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
We inform. You decide.
Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Biotech lab valuable resource to suicidal students

With more college students reporting thoughts of suicide nationwide, the UF Counseling Center is opening a lab to help students before they reach that point.

Sherry Benton, the center's director, said a new biofeedback lab opening in Peabody Hall next week will show students how to overcome anxiety and stress with computer programs that guide them through deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises.

The lab will open two weeks after the American Psychological Association released a survey of college students concerning suicide.

More than half of the 26,000 students surveyed from 70 schools have considered suicide, according to the findings.

Pressure from college and academics is one of the top reasons students reported considering suicide.

"Students felt school was more competitive, less collaborative," Benton said.

The UF program, which can be described as a cross between a yoga video and a video game, uses clamps for students' fingers to measure changes in heart rate and level of sweat as they learn how to stomp stress.

Animated trees or butterflies help the user follow a slow, steady rate of breathing in one of 15 exercises Benton recommends to be used weekly by students who qualify for the treatment

"It really changes their physiology in relaxing," Benton said.

The number of students using UF's Counseling Center shot up in the past decade and has remained steady over the past couple of years. About 1,700 students visit each year, Benton said.

The Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs gave the center a grant in spring 2007, and $36,000 of it paid for renovation of the fourth floor in Peabody Hall and construction on the biofeedback lab, which started this summer.

Courtney Knowles, executive director of the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit organization for preventing suicide and promoting mental health in college students, said students see college as the foundation for their futures, and admitting any struggle is admitting failure.

Enjoy what you're reading? Get content from The Alligator delivered to your inbox

"Stigma is very self-perceived," Knowles said, adding that depressed students isolate themselves and are hard to help.

According to the APA research, nearly 80 percent of students who commit suicide do so without ever seeking counseling services. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for college students.

Knowles said 98 percent of suicides have diagnosable mental health problems at the time of death.

That's why Benton said she hopes to get students into the Counseling Center before they start considering or planning suicide.

The biofeedback lab approach is new to UF but is not to Benton.

Before she came to UF in February, she was an administrator at the University of Kansas, which had a similar lab used by between 60 and 100 students each week.

She said before adding the lab as a precautionary measure, a 13-year study showed the number of students with serious suicidal thoughts quadrupled to account for 20 percent of the University of Kansas's counseling center patients.

Support your local paper
Donate Today
The Independent Florida Alligator has been independent of the university since 1971, your donation today could help #SaveStudentNewsrooms. Please consider giving today.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2023 The Independent Florida Alligator and Campus Communications, Inc.