SEATTLE -- In addition to all the budget woes, this school year produced an especially grim statistic at the University of Washington: five students committed suicide, a sharp increase over previous years.
The KING 5 Investigators learned that most of those students reached out to the school for help before taking their lives.
The deaths as come students deal with the economic pressures of the great recession.
People are really worrying about what do to after college, said junior Tony Gobern. It's just a really stressful situation.
I just feel like some students think if they get a degree they don't really have anywhere to go after they graduate, said senior Romaisa Asif.
Experts say those pressures may be behind the deaths of thefive students who committed suicide during the 2010-2011 school year. In each of the three previous school years, an average of two students a year took their own lives.
Junior Carly Henley was the first to take her own life in October. She was a women's studies major who looked for therapy in the songs she wrote and performed.
I think as I listen to them now she was really trying to encourage herself that she was okay, and convince herself she was enough,and that her mistakes weren't the end of the world, said Dede Henley-Norris, Carly s mother.
Carly's family says she may have tried to self-medicate with music but she never sought treatment on campus.
However, documents obtained by KING 5 through public records requests reveal most of this year's suicide victims did turn to the UW for counseling.
Three of this year s five victims were patients at the mental health clinic at UW s Hall Health Center.
Three student patients committed suicide between January and March. The mental health staff won't reveal other details for privacy reasons.
In an email, Mental Health Director Anil Coumar told a colleague, in my almost 16 years here at the UW, I have never come across anything this serious....
Hall Health's top administrator acknowledges there have been big changes at the mental health clinic this year including a smaller staff and a re-structured program.
KING 5 asked Hall Health Director Dr. David Dugdale if that could have contributed to the patient deaths.
We have not identified anything like that, Dugdale replied. That's been the focus of much of our internal and external reviews.
Hall Health launched those reviews after the patients died.
When we see a cluster of events there's a higher level of review and the results of that are still pending, said Dugdale.
One memo obtained by KING 5, dated November of last year, shows top administrators worried UW s mental health programs are fragmented and can be confusing to students at a time when there is more demand for services.
Recently, UW brought in the head of the Youth Suicide Prevention Program to teach suicide warning signs to the school's small army of academic advisors.
They are what we call gatekeepers, said Executive Director Sue Eastgard. They see students more often and are more likely to be concerned, sort of wonder what's going on.
Eastgard and the UW staff don t want an important message to get lost, that treatment is readily available and it helps most depressed students.
Suicide for most is not about wanting to die, it s about wanting to stop the pain, said Eastgard.
She says some of the common warning signs for college age depression include increased irritability, anxiety or sadness. Another significant sign could be withdrawal from friends and family. In college, these symptoms may go unnoticed because students are often separated from their families and close friends.
Eastgard recommends for help the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
In additional to Hall Health, UW also offers services at the Counseling Center at Schmitz Hall.