Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 01:32 am est

NYU fails to tackle root of its suicide problem

Posted on September 27, 2012 | by Emma Dolhai

This past week, walking through the hallways of Elmer Holmes Bobst Library, I overheard a conversation between two students and stopped. It was nothing special, just a casual remark on the aluminum screens that have become the new face of NYU’s principal library. The official NYU line on the recently completed barriers is that “The… aluminum screens have been custom made and fabricated to provide light, air, and views of the atrium as well as safety.”

Of course, most NYU students are already very familiar with the other reason for the renovations: namely, the three suicides that occurred at the library — two in 2003 and one in 2009, all involving students jumping from the building’s uppermost floors.  Whatever people may think about the aesthetic quality of the screens — some people love them, others find them unsettling or ugly — it is worth noting that the bars themselves are actually not all that hard to remove. If the administrators at NYU were thinking clearly, they would see that any student distressed enough to jump could find a way. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Perhaps that is the reason why the screens are so unsettling. There exist an infinite number of ways to commit suicide. All that the screens really do is ensure that some of them are quieter. Screens simply do not prevent self-destruction, in the same way that building prisons does not lower crime rates. The root of the problem is what needs to be addressed, not its ugly aftermath.

NYU prides itself on its Wellness Exchange and counseling services, but walk into the Wellness Center on any given day, and you will find yourself waiting anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour to see a counselor — and that’s only after you’ve filled out a mountain of paperwork. Speak to a counselor about your issues and you will receive sympathetic nods, a few smiles and the recurring phrase, “I understand.” Now, it merits recognition that not all counselors are created equal, but the lack of effective health care for the struggling verges on the absurd. NYU Wellness seems to operate on the mantra that a student must make a conscious, devoted effort in order to receive help. Those struggling with suicide, however, are often the last to come forward of their own free will. In a university as large as NYU, where many students feel like nothing more than a number, it is imperative that there exists a better and more comprehensive infrastructure for support.

We should remember that NYU is not the first university to face this issue: Cornell University began installing nets underneath many of its bridges in August in order to address similar concerns. The suicide issue is clearly all too real at far too many institutions

As the fall semester gets underway, it is important for us to look around and to realize just how many of our peers may be on the brink of desperation. University students are masters at acting; they know that in order to be socially accepted they must put on a happy face. Maybe it is time for a more open dialogue about mental illness and suicide — not just at NYU, but at universities across the country. And the universities themselves must facilitate this dialogue instead of simply turning the other way and installing suicide bars.

Emma Dolhai is a contributing writer. Email her at opinion@nyunews.com.

Comments

  • Tetrs

    Also… whenever I’m in there, I feel like I’m trapped within a paused game of Tetris.

  • M.

    I’d just like to say that, while I agree with the fact that NYU students (and New Yorkers in general!) are made to feel far too much like a number, it doesn’t reeeally sound like this writer has been to counseling. Actually, there is only a small amount of paperwork, like any doctor’s office requires, and the counselors (though not very good–I think most of them are still working towards their degree) certainly do more than just nod and say “I understand.” I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE ANYONE NEEDING HELP TO SEE A COUNSELOR AT THE WELLNESS CENTER. May have saved my life.

  • Asian

    Suicide is horrible.

  • Sakhile Oscar Thwala

    This suicides thing is not only there infect its also a common situation here in Africa people commit it because of failing to combat their personal issues which have a powerful negative impact to all these. we can say that people need a counselling but infact this thing come from an heart of an individual provided that his or her colleagues have no idea of he/she is feeling in that particular time then a person begin to do suicide. i mean to say even here in my university suicide is very common people die side to side

CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
CLOSE [x]
profile portrait
Felipe De La Hoz

Multimedia Editor | Felipe De La Hoz is a Colombian national studying journalism at the College of Arts and Sciences. Having been born in Colombia and raised in the United States, Mexico and Brazil, Felipe is a trilingual travel aficionado and enjoys working in varied and difficult environments. Apart from his photography, Felipe enjoys investigative reporting and interviews, interviewing the likes of Colombian ex-M-19 guerrilla fighters and controversial politician Jimmy McMillan. He has covered everything from governmental conferences to full-blown riots, as well as portraiture shoots and dining photography. Having worked under Brazilian photojournalists for Reuters and AFP, Felipe hopes to one day work on demanding journalistic projects and contribute to the global news cycle.

AS
Ann Schmidt

News Editor | Ann is a liberal studies sophomore who lived in Florence during her freshman year. She plans on double-majoring in journalism and political science and is always busy. She is constantly making lists and she loves to laugh.

 

DY
Daniel Yeom

Daniel started at the Features desk of WSN last Spring, writing restaurant reviews whilst indulging on free food and consequently getting fat. Last Fall, he was the dining editor, and he this semester he is senior editor. Daniel is in Gallatin (living the dream) studying Food & Travel Narratives, incorporating aspects of Food Studies, Journalism, and Media, Culture, and Communication. He loves food more than life itself.

Hannah Luu

Deputy Multimedia Editor | Hannah Luu is a ridiculously great Deputy Multimedia Editor. She is a sophomore from Northern California. If you think Northern California means San Francisco you might need to closely examine a map. She is passionate about NPR and being half Asian.

CLOSE [x]
  • How to join:

    The Washington Square News holds open weekly budget meetings at its office located at 838 Broadway every Sunday. All are welcome to attend, no matter your background in journalism, writing, or reporting. Specific times for meetings by desk are listed below. If you wish to talk to an editor before you attend, feel free to check out the Staff page.

    NEWS FEATURES MULTIMEDIA SPORTS ARTS OPINION
    5 P.M. 6 P.M. 6 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 6:30 P.M. 7 P.M.

    Applying for an editor position: Applications for editor positions during the fall or spring semesters are available twice each academic year and can be found here when posted. Applications for the Fall 2012 semester are closed, but check back for Spring 2013. Those who wish to apply are urged to publish pieces in the newspaper and contact current editors for shadowing.

    History of the Washington Square News:

    The Washington Square News is the official daily student newspaper of New York University and serves the NYU, Greenwich Village, and East Village communities. Founded as an independent newspaper in 1973, the WSN allows its undergraduate writers and photographers to cover campus and city news and continues to grow its strong body of award-winning journalists and photographers.

  • The WSN has a circulation of about 60,000 and can be found in over a hundred purple bins distributed throughout campus. It is published Monday through Thursday during the fall and spring semesters and online on Friday, with additional special issues published in the summer. The newspaper recently revamped its website during the Fall 2012 semester.

    Like few campus newspapers in the country, the paper is editorially and financially independent from the university and is solely responsible for selling advertisements to fund its production. The WSN, including its senior staff, is run solely by current undergraduate students and the business-division is largely student-operated as well.

    A Board of Directors comprised of alumni, NYU professors and working news media professionals serves as advisors to the paper. Board members have no control in the WSN's editorial policy or newsroom operations. Alumni of the newspaper are established and leading journalists in such news organizations as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NBC news, ABC news, Fox News, and USA Today.

    Next