Each year, there are roughly two suicides for every 20,000 university students, according to The New York Times. Unfortunately, in the last month alone, three students in this country took their lives by jumping off bridges at Cornell University into the campus’s famed deep gorges. There is no doubt that these events are tragic. As such, they must serve as a reminder to the students, faculty, staff and administrators here at the University of Michigan — and to university community members across the country — that the ample availability of mental health resources is paramount to students’ health and safety. Students and staff must be vigilant in preventing the occurrence of such tragedies.
As reported by the Times last week, Cornell University hadn’t registered any confirmed suicides since the beginning of 2006. In the current academic year, there have been six. The suicides have caused concern on the part of the institution and community. Cornell officials have constructed temporary fences around the bridges, which they hope will prevent more suicides. Security guards have also been stationed at each of the bridges. Cornell officials have been drastically increasing their support of mental health outreach programs.
The University of Michigan is fortunate that it isn’t experiencing what Cornell is now going through. But given the similarities between Cornell and our school, the University should take measures to increase its mental health resources and outreach to students.
Students at prestigious institutions like Cornell and the University of Michigan are under constant pressure to perform. And the competitive atmosphere of college has increased as the economy has suffered and students feel more pressure to be the very best in order to secure a place in the difficult job market. College students are becoming more vulnerable and stressed. To combat this, the University should become more proactive in helping students cope.
The University’s Counseling and Psychological Services (more commonly known as CAPS) has been an excellent resource on campus for students to seek help. According to a February report by the Daily, CAPS saw a significant rise in demand in 2009. The University responded appropriately by increasing funding to CAPS last semester, which resulted in larger offices, increased counseling and the creation of workshops that make counseling more available. The University must continue to ensure that CAPS receives the resources it needs to make help available to every student who asks for it.
And, as Cornell did, the University should train all of its employees to be on the lookout for warning signs that may demonstrate that a student is in need of support. Students should also be watchful of friends and classmates. With students far from home, the University community should serve as a substitute family to students, and community members must watch out for each other. And, most importantly, students who feel unwell must remember that there is no shame in asking for help. They shouldn’t feel any hesitation take advantage of the resources that the University and CAPS provide.
The recent suicides have deeply shaken our peers at Cornell. And given our university’s resemblance to Cornell, students and University officials should make every effort to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring here.