By Kelly Corbett
Lot 7 underwent a short construction project earlier this semester. The end result was a black wire fence installed, barricading the third floor ledge.
If my parents had seen this when we took our first tour of the College, they would have been reluctant, at the least, about the school. A barrier like this is not a typical amenity to a university. So, why did the College build one?
“The College built the barriers as a ‘means restriction’ measure,” said Luke Sacks, head media relations officer at the College. “Limitation of access to lethal methods used for death by suicide is an important and effective strategy for suicide prevention.”
While suicide prevention should be prominent on any university’s agenda, this was not the right action for our school to take. It sends a negative message to visitors and fails to address the root of suicide problems: mental health.
No one wants another harrowing headline about how the College lost another student. We identify as a “survivor school,” with five deaths by suicide in a four-year period, and this barrier is only advertising this message. It sends a message to visitors, prospective students and their families that this is a place where students consider taking their own lives.
This fence is also futile to suicide prevention efforts. The roof is still open. The second floor is still open, and other campus garages have gone untouched by this “means restriction” initiative. Suicide is still very possible at the College, and this barrier really serves no other purpose than to visibly taint our school as an institution where suicide is an issue.
It diminishes the appeal of the College when you see a “means restriction” like this. It is similar to how sweatshops in China install suicide nets to prevent their overworked mental illness-ridden employees from succeeding in their dreary mission.
Currently, no other “means restriction” construction projects are scheduled, according to Sacks. Yet, it makes me fear how the College is approaching the mental health situation on campus. Instead of taking action early on and addressing the underlying issue, the College put up this fence that can only attempt to save a student at what could be his or her very last few seconds of life. At this point, it is far too late to be stepping in. Mental illness is the stimulus for suicide and, unfortunately, mental health resources are the College’s shortcoming.
With the TCNJ Clinic scheduled to close at the end of the academic year and CAPS presently only offering short-term treatment to students in need, the College recently communicated a plan to students.
“We are happy to announce that ‘InFocus Urgent Care’ will not only be providing urgent medical care to the surrounding community, but will also have licensed mental health professionals on staff to offer longer-term counseling to TCNJ students in need of these services,” wrote Amy Hecht, vice president for Student Affairs in an email to the College community on Monday, April 10.
InFocus Urgent Care will be located in Campus Town and is slated to open this summer, according to Hecht. While news of another medical facility opening nearby is a stride in the right direction, I cross my fingers that there is a sufficient amount of licensed mental health professionals, versed in many different areas of mental health, available to accommodate both the TCNJ community and the surrounding community. As urgent care facilities are not the typical environment to go for counseling, I hope setbacks such as placing students on a waitlist for therapy, as CAPS had done, will not be destined in this facility’s future. Also, that tuition rates for either Campus Town or campus as a whole will not dramatically reflect this new addition.
While I see efforts are being made, resources are still limited. This urgent care will not be open 24 hours and will close long before we’ve winded down for the night. For a buzzing student body, we need something open later than our classes run. While this is a promise by the College I am looking forward to seeing come to fruition, I still wonder about their rationale behind other decisions. I just can’t follow why this unusual parking garage accessory, that’s not fixing the problem and only going to put the wrong taste in visitors’ mouths, was installed.
Students share opinions around campus
“Does the College pay attention to mental health?”
“Yes, they have a lot of services readily available.”
“Yes, the campus does a good job of promoting mental health. There are plenty of services.”