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Student Suicide Rates Rise at Cornell – Why?

It’s not something they’re proud of, but Cornell University has long been known for their high rate of student suicide. They experienced a bit of reprieve from the tragic trend between 2005 and 2008, but this school year hasn’t been quite as positive.

Since the beginning of the year, Cornell has reported six suicides, with three in the last month.  It’s gotten so dire that, as a temporary measure, they have even placed fencing on campus bridges.  The University is aware that the issue is much larger than physical blockades, and that a long-term solution needs to be implemented.  For the time being, security guards will be posted along the bridges as well.

Reading this tragic news disturbs me greatly and raises an array of questions on several tangents. 

The most obvious question that has always circulated, is why Cornell?  What about this particular school leads to such a trend? There are some theories relating to the “demands” of the school, and the physical isolation, but it is hard to believe that these reasons are explanatory enough.  Considering that there are certainly other demanding schools, and other schools that are in isolated locations, there must be something else.  So, what else is it?

It is also interesting to look at how it affects potential students.  Does it stop students from applying? Or do they ignore it and apply anyway because of the prestige of the school? If so, why or why not?  Furthermore, how do parents feel about their children applying to a school that is known for high suicide rates?

More specifically, I have to wonder how effective the fences will be.  Not that I am an expert by any means, but logic would lead me to believe that if a student was serious about taking their own life, they could probably find another means to do so.  Will the fences prevent suicide, or will students take alternate routes if they are honestly committed to doing so?  As tragic as it is, this could be a possibility.

These questions of suicide and elevated suicide rates may never be answered, but at least trying to find an answer may lead to some conclusions and preventative measures.

    Comments

    Comments

    1. This is scary and interesting at the same time. Is pressure on students really so high that they have no other choice?

    2. […] Student Suicide Rates Rise at Cornell – Why? It’s not something they’re proud of, but Cornell University has long been known for their high rate of […] […]

    3. cornellian2010 says:

      As a senior at Cornell, I am saddened by the sudden increase of suicides on campus. However, you have failed to note that research on suicides find that they tend to come in groups of threes. Three suicides in a month is horrifying, but one usually sparks the next, which sparks the next. The academic demands of the University are probably much higher than almost all other Universities in the US; but in reality, it is the students that commit suicide, not the University. If you were to look at these specific individuals, you would find that they all had signs of mental illness. Cornell's campus has ample resources to help treat depression and anxiety, but it is up to the individual and his/her family/friends/coworkers/advisers to help them seek that help. The recent suicides have saddened Cornell's community but before this outbreak, our suicide rate was no higher than the national average.

    4. Rosie says:

      As a Cornell student, I am deeply saddened by the recent deaths on campus. However, I am also disappointed by the coverage surrounding these events. While Cornell has certainly seen a rise in its suicide rate in the last month, overall, the University's rate has been at or below the national average; thus, to start a story by stating that "Cornell University has long been known for their high rate of student suicide" is misleading and false. Although it may seem sensationalist to highlight Cornell's alleged high suicide rate–the recent suicides are dramatic, with the victims jumping off campus bridges into the normally beautiful gorges on Cornell's campus–it is a cheap ploy to lure readers in; it is false advertising. What should be highlighted is not this falsity, but suicide awareness and prevention.

    5. Sayornis says:

      Suicide is an issue at any college campus, not just Cornell. It is unfortunate and tragic that we've had so many in the last couple of months. Ithaca does have many gorges and a majority of students have to cross one on their way to classes. There's something soothing about the gorges when you look down upon it. Another commenter at The Huffington Post said that after some let-down in life, there's an urge to just "go with it" and everything will be okay. Most people snap out of that mentality, but obviously that's not always the case.

      As a Cornell sophomore, it was so heartwarming seeing the campus band together to remember the deceased but also to work towards suicide prevention.

      Stay strong, Cornell.

    6. Doodlio Jones says:

      That is some serious shit and while the living are forced to clean up the mess- if someone's life is so painful that they want to die, you have to let them unless you can somehow magically fix all of their problems. Put yourself in their shoes- they have most likely spent years hating their existence, this isn't a Romeo and Juliet tragedy. If society accommodated their choice to die, then they wouldn't likely resort to using the bridge. People want a quick death- people don't commit suicide by driving a boat into the middle of the ocean or starving themselves to death- they jump off buildings or shoot themselves.

    7. Joey Fitone says:

      That is some serious shit and while the living are forced to clean up the mess- if someone's life is so painful that they want to die, you have to let them unless you can somehow magically fix all of their problems. Put yourself in their shoes- they have most likely spent years hating their existence, this isn't a Romeo and Juliet tragedy. If society accommodated their choice to die, then they wouldn't likely resort to using the bridge. People want a quick death- people don't commit suicide by driving a boat into the middle of the ocean or starving themselves to death- they jump off buildings or shoot themselves.

    8. Dennis Johnson says:

      Suicide isn't the best way out of problem. But the question is why do people feel the need to commit suicide? It's probably because they don't have the proper support group around themselves to cope with all sorts of problems. I think that in the past bullying was just confined to the school yard and there weren't as many problems. Nowadays you have a ton of cyber-bullying expanding the reach of these problems to sites like http://www.dirtyphonebook.com that actually expose personal phone numbers and organize groups of people to harass others. Suicide should never be encouranged and people should do their best to help others instead of cyber-bullying and putting them down.

    9. Beth says:

      Actually there have been studies done that show 90% of people who try to commit suicide, if deferred, will NOT try again. I think the deep gorges were attractive for suicides but now that there will be fences there, it doesn't mean people will go somewhere else instead- it will save lives.

    10. Courtney says:

      Reasons for frequent Cornell suicides…

      1) Academic stress

      2) CONSTANT gloomy, depressing weather aside from rare days where the sun shines

      3) Gorges – easy accessible, clearly successful method, and has almost become a tradition

      and yes, I more than one person who was accepted to Cornell and didn't go because a) their parents wouldn't let them because of the reputation or b) they were afraid they would be overwhelmed with stress

      and the fences aren't going to stop them… they may cause the jumpers to think twice but if they have intentions to end their life, they'll find a way to do it, even if it means going AROUND the fences??

    11. Cornell Alum says:

      Suicides at Cornell are high because the Administration frankly doesn't give a s**t about its students. With the notable exception of Susan Murphy, who has clearly been at the forefront of caring about students, the administration from President Skorton on down have been more concerned about the negative PR than about the underlying reasons for the suicides. The institution response to suicides: lets put fences on the bridges to make it harder to jump. Bear in mind that the rate is likely much higher than reported; many "accidents" are either suicides or related to heavy ingestion of alcohol or other substances to alleviate the stress.

    12. Cornell2015 says:

      It's worth noting that fences really are a good solution. When means of suicide are cut off (e.g. Britain switching to non-poisonous gas from gas heating lines), the decline in one method is not matched by increases in other methods. For people who are suicidal, the means of suicide is intimately tied to the goal.

      As for Cornell… yes, it is an unusual setting. Its a massive school where its very easy to find yourself going without interacting with anyone – the resources are available, but there's no one to make you seek them, and the people most at risk are those who dont have anyone to connect them to help. You cross gorges every day, and can't help but think about the topic in light of Cornell's reputation – its not all that surprising that someone looking to kill themself would reliably turn to the gorges.

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