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UW-Madison Finishing Plan To Track Student Deaths

Few Colleges Track Suicides, Despite Prevention Investments

Snowstorm on the UW-Madison campus
Bill Martens/WPR

Health officials at the University of Wisconsin say they’re finalizing a new database to track the cause of death when students die.

UW-Madison is among many that don’t formally track student suicides, but officials there say the new database will link local information with death data kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UW-Madison epidemiologist Dr. Agustina Marconi said “our findings and the standards we create will benefit other universities moving forward.”

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An Associated Press analysis has found nearly half of the nation’s largest public universities don’t track suicides among their students despite making investments in prevention.

Documents obtained through public records requests show about 40 of the 100 largest universities track suicides.

Prevention advocates say the lack of information makes it impossible for schools to measure success and find trends that can be used to save lives.

Tabulating student suicides comes with its own set of challenges and problems. But the issue has come to the fore at a time of surging demand for mental health services on campuses.

Advocates in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Washington have pushed for better data collection at colleges, but it has not been written into law.