Skip to main content

The Relationship Between Suicide Ideation, Behavioral Health, and College Academic Performance


The impact of suicidal ideation on college students’ academic performance has yet to be examined, yet mental health is often linked with academic performance. Underclassmen and upperclassmen were compared on behavioral health outcomes related to academic success (N = 26,457). Ideation (b = −0.05, p < .05), increased mental health (b = −0.03, p < .01) or substance use severity (b = −0.02, p < .01) was associated with lower GPAs. Underclassmen’s behavioral health severity was related to lower GPA. Students reported higher GPAs when participating in extracurricular activities during the past year. Ideation, beyond mental health, is an important when assessing academic performance. Increasing students’ connections benefits students experiencing behavioral concerns but also aids in suicide prevention initiatives and improves academic outcomes. Creating integrated health care systems on campus where physical, mental health and academic support services is crucial to offer solutions for students with severe or co-morbid mental health histories.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Allen, J., Robbins, S., Casillas, A., & Oh, I.-S. (2008). Third-year college retention and transfer: Effects of academic performance, motivation, and social connectedness. Research in Higher Education, 49(7), 647–664. doi:10.1007/s11162-008-9098-3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • American College Health Association (2012). American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2012. Retrieved from

  • Ang, R. P., & Huan, V. S. (2006). Relationship between academic stress and suicidal ideation: Testing for depression as a mediator using multiple regression. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 37(2), 133–143.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Arria, A. M., Garnier-Dykstra, L. M., Caldeira, K. M., Vincent, K. B., Winick, E. R., & O’Grady, K. E. (2012). Drug use patterns and continuous enrollment in college: Results from a longitudinal study. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(1), 71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Belsley, D. A., Kuh, E., & Welsch, R. E. (1980). Regression diagnostics: Identifying influential data and sources of collinearity. New York, NY: Wiley.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Borowsky, I. W., Ireland, M., & Resnick, M. D. (2001). Adolescent suicide attempts: Risks and protectors. Pediatrics, 107(3), 485–493.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Brar, I. K., Ryu, J. E., Shaikh, K., Altman, A., & Ng, J. (2012). University campus peer support centres: Benefits for student emotional and mental well-Being. The Meducator, 1(21), Article 10. Retrieved from:

  • Contreras, S., Fernandez, S., Malcarne, V. L., Ingram, R. E., & Vaccarino, V. R. (2004). Reliability and validity of the Beck depression and anxiety inventories in Caucasian Americans and Latinos. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 26(4), 446–462.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • DeBerard, M. S., Spielmans, G., & Julka, D. (2004). Predictors of academic achievement and retention among college freshmen: A longitudinal study. College Student Journal, 38(1), 66–80.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Luca, S., & Wyman, P. (2012). Association between school engagement and disclosure of suicidal ideation to adults among Latino adolescents. Journal of Primary Prevention, 33(2-3), 99–110.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Drum, D. J., Brownson, C., Denmark, A. B., & Smith, S. E. (2009). New data on the nature of suicidal crises in college students: Shifting the paradigm. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 40(3), 213–222.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Durkheim, É. (1951). Suicide, a study in sociology. Glencoe, Ill: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eisenberg, D., Golberstein, E., & Hunt, J. B. (2009). Mental health and academic success in college. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy, 9(1), Article 40. Retrieved from:

  • Flores, S. M., & Park, T. J. (2013). Race, ethnicity, and college success: Examining the continued significance of the minority-serving institution. Educational Researcher, 42(3), 115–128. doi:10.3102/0013189x13478978.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gold, L., & Albert, L. (2006). Graduation rates as a measure of college accountability. American Academic, 2(1), 89–106.

    Google Scholar 

  • Horsfall, J., Cleary, M., Hunt, G. E., & Walter, G. (2009). Psychosocial treatments for people with co-occurring severe mental illnesses and substance use disorders (dual diagnosis): A review of empirical evidence. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 17(1), 24–34.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hysenbegasi, A., Hass, S. L., & Rowland, C. R. (2005). The impact of depression on the academic productivity of university students. Journal of Mental Health Policy and Economics, 8(3), 145–151.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Joiner, T. E, Jr. (2005). Why people die by suicide. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knis-Matthews, L., Bokara, J., DeMeo, L., Lepore, N., & Mavus, L. (2007). The meaning of higher education for people diagnosed with a mental illness: Four students share their experiences. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 31(2), 107–114.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Konick, L. C., & Gutierrez, P. M. (2005). Testing a model of suicide ideation in college students. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 35(2), 181–192. doi:10.1521/suli.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Kuh, G. D., Cruce, T. M., Shoup, R., Kinzie, J., & Gonyea, R. M. (2008). Unmasking the effects of student engagement on first-year college grades and persistence. The Journal of Higher Education, 79(5), 540–563.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lotkowski, V. A., Robbins, S. B., & Noeth, R. J. (2004). The role of academic and non-academic factors in improving college retention. ACT Policy Report, 1.

  • McPherson, S., Barbosa-Leiker, C., Burns, G. L., Howell, D., & Roll, J. (2012). Missing data in substance abuse treatment research: Current methods and modern approaches. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 20(3), 243.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Mortier, P., Demyttenaere, K., Auerbach, R. P., Green, J. G., Kessler, R. C., Kiekens, G., et al. (2015). The impact of lifetime suicidality on academic performance in college freshmen. Journal of Affective Disorders, 186, 254–260.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness (2012). College students speak: Survey report on mental health. Retrieved from

  • Rodriguez, A. L., Guido-DiBrito, F., Torres, V., & Talbot, D. (2000). Latina college students: Issues and challenges for the 21st century. NASPA Journal, 37(3), 511–527.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Swanson, C. B. (2008). Cities in crisis: A special analytic report on high school graduation. Bethesda, MD: Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

    Google Scholar 

  • Twenge, J. M., Gentile, B., DeWall, C. N., Ma, D. S., Lacefield, K., & Schurtz, D. R. (2010). Birth cohort increases in psychopathology among young Americans, 1938–2007: A cross-temporal meta-analysis of the MMPI. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 145–154.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ward, T., & Commander, N. (2011). The power of student voices: An investigation of the enduring qualities of freshmen learning communities. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice, 13(1), 63–85.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Webber, K. L., Krylow, R. B., & Zhang, Q. (2013). Does involvement really matter? Indicators of college student success and satisfaction. Journal of College Student Development, 54, 600–609.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Whitlock, J., Wyman, P. & Barreira, P. (2012). Connectedness and suicide prevention in college setttings. Retrieved

  • Wilcox, S., Arria, A., Caldeira, K., Vincent, K., Pinchevsky, G., & O’Grady, K. (2010). Prevalence and predictors of persistent suicide ideation, plans, and attempts during college. Journal of Effective Disorders, 127(1–3), 287–294.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wyman, P. A., Brown, C. H., LoMurray, M., Schmeelk-Cone, K., Petrova, M., Yu, Q., & Walsh, E. (2010). An outcome evaluation of the sources of strength suicide prevention program delivered by adolescent peer leaders in high schools. American Journal of Public Health, 100(9), 1653–1661.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Susan M. De Luca.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

De Luca, S.M., Franklin, C., Yueqi, Y. et al. The Relationship Between Suicide Ideation, Behavioral Health, and College Academic Performance. Community Ment Health J 52, 534–540 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Mental health
  • College students
  • Academic outcomes
  • Substance use