Wednesday, October 2, 2019

The Campus Suicide Crisis

The University of Pennsylvania has a suicide problem. Fourteen students have killed themselves over the past six years. Surely, it gives us reason to question the quality of treatment on offer at one of America’s major universities.

Worse yet, the director of the Counseling Center, Gregory Eells, the man who was hired to help deal with student mental health problems himself committed suicide. At the least it does not inspire confidence in the university mental health program. After all, the man who had the best access to the best treatments either did not avail himself of them or has shown that they do not work very well.

On a quiet Sunday afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania, a dozen students sat in a circle, turned to one another, and asked: “Are you thinking of killing yourself?”
The difficult practice, accompanied by uncomfortable giggles and prolonged eye contact, came toward the end of a four-hour training session in a technique known as active listening. Students are taught to ask the question, among others, with a gentle and direct tone. The method and question can help reduce the risk of suicide, training experts say.

With 14 student suicides in the past six years, this Ivy League university has been asking hard questions and has bolstered its mental-health resources. But the recent death by suicide of a high-profile mental-health administrator—Gregory Eells, executive director of Penn’s Counseling and Psychological Services program that provides therapy sessions for students—highlighted the complexity of the school’s continuing battle against suicide.

Being hyperconscious of suicide does not necessarily improve your condition. It might do just the oppsite.

As it happens, America’s suicide rate has been increasing over the past two decades:

The U.S. suicide rate for nearly all ages increased from 1999 to 2017, according to the most recent figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is the second-leading cause of death among Americans aged 10 to 34. Suicide has touched college campuses around the country, and school administrators have responded with increased support services. Students have also gotten involved in suicide prevention.

Naturally, mental health professionals on campus want to destigmatize suicide, thus to allow more people to talk openly about their suicidal wishes. Dare I say that we find such an approach to be questionable. When you destigmatize something, the chances are that you will get more of it. When we destigmatized divorce we got more divorce. When we destigmatized adultery we got more adultery. 

At the very least, it is not self-evident that talking about suicide will reduce the number of suicides. It didn’t help Gregory Eells. 

The Journal continues:

Penn has bolstered its mental-health resources in recent years. It created an administrative position dedicated to wellness in 2018, expanded staff of Counseling and Psychological Services, known as CAPS, developed 24-hour access to counseling services and shortened waiting periods for appointments with clinicians, among other steps.

Students, meanwhile, have formed more wellness groups, offering peer-to-peer counseling services, teaching active-listening techniques and funding more student-led wellness events.

Students say improving communication about available resources on campus and talking openly about suicides can help destigmatize the issue. Administrators said they are re-examining their communication strategies. At a meeting between the two groups this past Friday, students offered an idea: Hand out a document at orientation listing resources, including whom to talk to, where to go and how to get involved.

This article, for all its merits, does not address the cause of the problem. How did America’s college students become more suicidal? Might it have something to do with the curriculum, with what they are taught, at what they are forced to believe.

Today’s college students, especially those who lean toward the political left, have dispensed with patriotism. And with pride in country. They have fewer connections to community. They have been taught that their parents, especially if they are white and successful, are criminals. They have been taught to feel guilty about their privilege.

This implies that they should not be proud to be at Penn and should not feel proud of their or their parents’ achievements. It implies that they should punish themselves, to pay off the debt of their guilt. 

Now, why would this not impact their mental health?


ASM826 said...

I would submit that a reasonable percentage of single occupant auto accidents are also suicides. As a good friend in law enforcement observes, why do so many people hit large objects like bridge abutments and highway overpass supports? If just driving off the road was a thing, why don't most of them end up stuck in a ditch or a field?

This being likely, but unprovable, suicide is easily the #1 cause of death for people 18-34. It's gone up a bit the last few years, but has always been an issue.

Sam L. said...

Whenever I think of killing myself, I tell myself "That's STUPID!" That would HURT. And my wife, she'd kill me if I did that. She's a redhead, but then, I knew she was when I married her.

Le Gaïagénaire said...
"Eells’ mother told The Inquirer on Monday that he had been struggling with the new job and being away from his wife and three children, still back in Ithaca, N.Y."

No comment from the wife but it is obvious the mother is still in HER narcistiscally invested son's shorts.

In the absence of a METOO scandal, this "little boy" was suicidal for 50 years.