What is it about?

Young adults and adolescents, especially university students, face changes in their life’s contexts, such as joining new social groups and requirements related to the period of their academic and professional training. When these changes do not correspond to their and their family's expectations, an emotional imbalance can occur, which often serves as a trigger for suicidal ideation. A study about depression among the freshman students at a University in southern Brazil was conducted in 2017. The study found that one in five students interviewed had self-injury thoughts and/or suicidal ideation at some point in the last two weeks. These symptoms were more frequent among females and those with brown, black or other skin color in comparison to those with white skin color. Individuals with a family history of depression, minority sexual orientation, negative self-reported academic performance, students taking courses in the area of Linguistics, Modern Languages and Arts and students who reported strong conflicts with university teachers or colleagues also had higher prevalence of those symptoms.

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Why is it important?

Self-injury thoughts and/or suicidal ideation are frequent among freshmen students. Self-injury thoughts and/or suicidal ideation are indicators of severe depression and of suicide risk, which is one of the leading causes of death among young people. Self-injury can leave irreversible physical sequelae.


Educational institutions should provide training for teachers to foster students with signs of depression and deal with the situation appropriately. In addition, educational institutions must establish strategies to mediate conflicts, both between students and between students and teachers, to prevent negative impacts on mental health.

Betina Flesch
Universidade Federal de Pelotas

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Major depressive episode externalizing symptoms among university students, PLoS ONE, June 2021, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252027.
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