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ASU Among Large Colleges That Don't Track Suicides

Most of the country’s largest universities don’t track suicides among their students. That’s according to a new investigation from the Associated Press. Among the schools that don’t track those rates is Arizona State University, where at least 2 occurred in 2017. Here to give us a closer look at this data is KJZZ’s education reporter, Carrie Jung.

MARK BRODIE: So Carrie, can you break down some of the numbers from this report. When you we say most schools what does that mean?

CARRIE JUNG: Well, the Associated Press asked the 100 largest U.S. public universities for annual suicide statistics and found that 46 currently track suicides. Of the 54 remaining schools though, 43 said they simply don't track suicides, and nine could provide only limited data and didn't answer questions about how consistently they had been tracking those deaths.

BRODIE: And have we heard from any of the schools that don’t track suicides about why they aren’t collecting this data?

JUNG: Well, I did reach out to Arizona State University yesterday and did not get a response. Officials at the school also did not respond to the Associated Press reporters when they reached out.

But it’s also important to note that tracking these types of deaths can be challenging. Often it's hard to confirm the cause of death. Medical examiners don't always notify universities when a cause is determined. There are also concerns about legal liability and privacy issues. And even among schools that do collect data on student suicide, they differ on whether they count suicides that occur away from campus or during breaks.

But some public health experts add many schools are afraid statistics like these could be bad for business if they were to become public.

BRODIE: OK, but still 46 large universities do track student suicide rates. What reasons did they give for making the effort?

JUNG: Well, for the most part, it seems those schools use the data to refine prevention efforts. Some universities have taken steps to secure access to certain roof tops, for example. Others have noticed trends in the statistics. At a couple of schools, officials have found transfer students were at a much higher risk of suicide, so they’ve now invested in more efforts to connect with those students to make sure they have the services they need.

BRODIE: That was KJZZ’s Carrie Jung. Carrie, thanks for joining us.

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Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.