In August, Gila Grad marked one year since surviving a suicide attempt when she jumped from a bridge in Minneapolis.
On the anniversary, she gathered friends for a party to celebrate her survival.
Grad, a part-time student at the University of Minnesota, is also an advocate for accessibility to mental health resources. "If we want to get to a place where people are open to talking about difficult subjects, [we need] to just start talking about difficult subjects," she said.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among college-age students. At the University of Minnesota, suicide accounts for over one-fourth of student deaths, according to the most recent report by the U's Provost Committee on Student Mental Health, released in 2016, with suicide data from the half-decade before. To address the complex issue, some researchers have turned to tracking data on suicides — something they say is necessary on college campuses.
The report found that there were 18 student deaths by suicide in the five-year period. Although suicide numbers on campus have not seen a sharp increase, mental health crisis interventions — urgent situations that could pose a threat to individuals — are increasing, University of Minnesota Police Department Chief Matt Clark said.
U police documented 93 mental health interventions between 2015 and 2016, which is around a 43 percent increase from the same period two years prior.
By tracking student suicides, experts say universities can direct outreach to more vulnerable students and communities. But suicide tracking is not a standard procedure for many college campuses.
Earlier this year, the Associated Press reported that more than half of the largest public universities in the country don't track student suicide rates or have inconsistent tracking methods.
The University of Minnesota tracks the number of student suicides by academic year. University clinic Boynton Health is notified of all student deaths and tracks them on a regular basis, said Matt Hanson, assistant director of Boynton Health's mental health clinic.
Suicide tracking, though challenging, could allow colleges to find trends about certain populations that may require additional outreach and servicing, said Nance Roy, chief clinical officer of the Jed Foundation, a national nonprofit dedicated to emotional health and suicide prevention among young adults.
The Minnesota Department of Health uses data on suicides and mental health to identify factors and groups prone to suicide, said Melissa Heinen, a Health Department epidemiologist.
Heinen said that ultimately, prevention happens on a much smaller scale.
"Prevention is local," she said. "It's in families and communities and relations."
Hanson, of Boynton Health, said the mental health field regarding children and college students is rapidly changing, and diagnoses are happening at a younger age.
"We've made strong strides in terms of reducing the stigma around mental health issues, but there is still a stigma," Hanson said.
Nancy Christensen, mother of U student Drew Christensen, who died by suicide in 2016, said her son's mental illness wasn't publicly discussed.
"When Drew was diagnosed in 2014 with bipolar … we didn't talk much about it. Because, you know, it's a really private thing and, certainly, he didn't want to talk about it with his friends or his family," she said. "I didn't want people to judge him."
Drew loved the university, his mother said. He was on its handball team and he was a passionate advocate for mental health on campus. He died shortly after graduating with a degree in chemistry.
"It's just all about talking about it," Christensen said. "To just let students know that it's OK and there's help out there."