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Nearly 1/3 of Washington students struggle with depression; resource group meets at UW

SEATTLE — No parent is ever emotionally prepared to send their kid off college. It is a difficult transition; and not just for mom and dad, but for our young adult children, too.

Results of a new mental health study, released Tuesday, show college students are juggling more than just the pressure of college credits. They’re facing depression and anxiety. And some are even contemplating suicide.

“I felt like it’s my fault he died. Why couldn’t I have saved him? And then I realized, if love could have saved him he would be alive. Loving your child isn’t enough,” says mother Kimberly Starr.

Within the walls of a room on the UW campus, Starr has learned to heal by sharing what’s on her heart. She lost her 16-year-old son to suicide just over two years ago. Since then, her mourning has blossomed into mentorship with the help of Forefront Cares, a nonprofit providing resources for loss survivors.

Nearly one-third of Washington college students have experienced depression in the past year. And 12 percent have had thoughts of suicide, according to a new survey of college students around the state. Five percent of those students also reported having a plan to end their life.

These findings come just two weeks to the day Washington State University quarterback Tyler Hilinski committed suicide. Hilinski’s tragic death has ignited a conversation among colleges and universities at a national level, where studies have found 11 percent of students reported having suicidal thoughts.

“For college age students, that's something like 18-22 year olds, suicide is the second leading cause of death after accidental death. There’s a whole lot of stuff going on with kids who are leaving home. Some of it has to do with the age when you think about, called transitional age youth, really like adolescence becoming adults,” says Swedish Medical Psychiatrist, Dr. Sasha Waring.

And that’s why these volunteer mentors at Forefront Cares are here -- to talk about the loss and in doing so to find common ground.

Starr encourages parents to have the same conversation with their own young adult children -- talk about the meaning of loss. And talk about what it means to find help.