Cornell University Reacts to String of Suicides

Suicide has recently been highlighted in many publications and community discussions; as a major concern among young people and among the population at large, the issue is forcing some family members and professionals to take a closer look at prevention and intervention measures. Cornell University in particular has recently been placed in the spotlight after a series of on-campus suicides, both confirmed and suspected. The campus has been fighting its image as a high stress “suicide school” for several years, and officials note that over these years, suicide rates have fallen within those considered normal for the size of its student population. Yet this year, the ivy-league school has experienced six suicide cases, three of which have taken place in the past month.

University officials have responded with enhanced counseling services and have posted guards at some of the campus’ suspension bridges, which overlook deep gorges frequently noted as highlighting the area’s natural beauty. Yet these gorges have been the scenes of despair and mourning for many students, as flowers and telephone numbers for suicide hot lines have developed a dominating presence. Some attribute the rising rates of suicide to stress –the traditionally nerve-wracking exam week that precedes spring break is currently taking place on campus–, while others posit that youths are simply going through the usual rigors of college life and the process of maturation. The problem seems to be, however, that students may not feel that they can ask for help, or may not know how to achieve it.

As university campuses and other institutions involved in the care and nurturing of young minds react to the incidents at Cornell, a greater focus on the role of college counseling services, therapy, and other important offerings may become crucial for moving forward in a positive way. Through helping people understand that help is available –and that it can be very powerful–, concerned professionals may be able to help prevent further rises in suicides within the educational environment.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Pearl


    March 21st, 2010 at 8:29 PM

    I’ve said for years that we push kids too far and too fast in many respects. How tragic that they feel they can’t confide in anyone at all. Such a waste of young lives full of promise.

  • Jacob


    March 22nd, 2010 at 5:52 AM

    Posting guards at suspension bridhes? Is that what they think will prevent or reduce suicide cases?! What a joke!

    Stopping someone from committing suicide physically is not the solution…the solution is to take a survey and find out as to how many students are stressed and why they are stressed…Then they need to fix that issue…maybe there is something particular about that university that is troublesome…they need to find out and fix it.

  • Hogan


    March 22nd, 2010 at 6:30 AM

    Cornell is a very competitive school just like so many other colleges. It is a sad fact that many college aged students do not know how to effectively deal with stress and the things that trigger that stress and often the best solution that they can come up with is suicide. We all know that there are other options but for these young people they feel the pressure and strain and think that they have no other choice.

    Colleges and universities are going to have to do something more to stop this string of useless deaths and give services to these kids that so desperately need help. I am not placing all of the blame on the school but they have a responsibility to take care of their student population and many of them are dropping the ball in this area.

  • Leon Renil

    Leon Renil

    March 22nd, 2010 at 12:04 PM

    Along with counseling and other such services provided by the school,it is also the responsibility of students that rae under stress to actually make use of such services…now its not possible that such a big university did not have any such facilities…the onus is also on the students to seek help whenever they feel the need for it.

  • Hogan


    March 23rd, 2010 at 7:30 AM

    Yes students have to seek out the services but you know as well as I do that there is still some hesitation on the part of college age students to do this. They are embarassed and nervous and do much better when someone might approach them with an offer to help. I know that this is not ideal but it does mean that we have to be on the lookout for issues that may be popping up so that we can nip them in the bud before disaster strikes.

  • Lacey


    March 23rd, 2010 at 9:01 AM

    Counseling being on offer is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. Should Cornell not be looking at the student’s workload too? Counseling after they already are having problems feels like their board is missing an obvious step. Are they not looking at why the children are feeling such pressure and that failure is not an option?

  • Philip


    March 25th, 2010 at 11:22 AM

    Universities are a microcosm of society. There will be individuals there that are more susceptible to or have an existing mental condition, just as there would be in any large section of the population. As Cornell has said, their rate falls within the national rate for universities. The close timing of recent suicides doesn’t mean automatically Cornell is at fault. It’s exam time when kids are under enormous stress. Cornell is apparently already doing all they can to circumvent that.

  • Cameron


    April 1st, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Perhaps it’s not the schools that are putting the pressure on the kids. Has anyone thought that the kids just didn’t want to let down their families? Cornell’s an Ivy League School. Ivy League equals very expensive. I feel for the families that their children could have seen suicide as a better option than dropping out. Is success really that important?

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