October 18, 2004

Preventing Suicide in Colleges

Last week the Wall Street Journal had a good article on how colleges are working to aggressively prevent suicides with counselling programs for students.

In the article, it mentioned an example of a young woman who had indicated that she might commit suicide. Her boyfriend dialed 911 and got help. The story reports that "When later confronted by the police, the student claimed that she had never intended to take her life, arguing that she was simply trying to rile her boyfriend. At many universities, that might have been the end of the story.

But at the University of Illinois, it was just the beginning. Administrators promptly presented the student with a stark choice: Meet with a mental-health counselor for four sessions, or don't bother coming back to school the following semester.

In an approach that is controversial among college administrators, the university has a zero-tolerance rule with suicidal behavior. In almost every case, students who threaten or attempt suicide are automatically required to see a counselor for four sessions if they want to remain at the school.

In the two decades the program has been in place, more than 1,800 students have been through it, and not one has committed suicide while enrolled at the school. Only one student chose to leave school rather than enter the program. (She later completed the sessions off campus, was allowed to re-enroll, and graduated with honors.)"


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