Col­leges lack sui­cide pre­ven­tion sys­tem

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Lee Suh-yoon [email protected]­re­

A law school stu­dent at Ewha Wo­mans Uni­ver­sity was found dead on cam­pus in an ap­par­ent sui­cide last week. The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the se­quence of events be­fore her death showed it could have been pre­vented if more at­ten­tion had been given or quicker mea­sures had been taken. The in­ci­dent served as a re­minder of the lack of pre­pared­ness and sup­port sys­tem for high-risk stu­dents on uni­ver­sity cam­puses.

The death was a re­sult of the stu­dent’s sec­ond sui­cide at­tempt of the day, ac­cord­ing to the school, po­lice and stu­dent wit­nesses. She was de­terred from her first at­tempt by a build­ing se­cu­rity guard. The case was re­ported to the school’s se­cu­rity of­fice, and the stu­dent, who in­sisted she was okay, was es­corted back to her dor­mi­tory by a school guard and a cam­pus po­lice of­fi­cer. But she was found dead 15 min­utes later.

Ac­cord­ing to the emer­gency field man­ual by the Na­tional Men­tal Health Cen­ter, a per­son who has al­ready at­tempted sui­cide or has shown signs they may do so soon must be im­me­di­ately trans­ferred to the hos­pi­tal, po­lice sta­tion or sui­cide pre­ven­tion cen­ter to de­ter self­harm.

In a phone in­ter­view, the uni­ver­sity said it fol­lowed the emer­gency man­ual af­ter the first at­tempt was re­ported. Af­ter the death oc­curred, the guard and the of­fi­cer were in the process of re­port­ing the sit­u­a­tion to the on-duty dor­mi­tory head, who would de­cide the next step, the school said. It ad­mit­ted the stu­dent — who in­sisted she was okay and was al­lowed to re­turn to her room alone — was let out of sight by the guard and of­fi­cer in this process.

The uni­ver­sity says it is now con­sult­ing with rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties to im­prove sui­cide pre­ven­tion.

“The school is think­ing of mak­ing sui­cide pre­ven­tion train­ing ses­sions, which uni­ver­sity staff al­ready must go through, also com­pul­sory for se­cu­rity per­son­nel from out­side con­trac­tors,” said pro­fes­sor Chun Jongserl, the uni­ver­sity’s pub­lic re­la­tions head.

Shin Eun-jung, deputy head of the Korea Sui­cide Pre­ven­tion Cen­ter, says all uni­ver­sity stu­dents should be re­quired to take a course in sui­cide pre­ven­tion.

“Lots of mid­dle and high schools now pro­vide sui­cide pre­ven­tion gate­keeper train­ing to stu­dents fol­low­ing the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry’s calls. Uni­ver­si­ties, how­ever, are much more au­tonomously run and do not re­quire stu­dents to take such train­ing,” Shin said.

Sui­cide pre­ven­tion “gate­keeper” train­ing helps peo­ple spot the warn­ing signs in mem­bers of their com­mu­nity and make sure at-risk in­di­vid­u­als get pro­fes­sional help.

With­out com­pul­sory group train­ing in sui­cide pre­ven­tion, Shin says young peo­ple in their early 20s will re­main in a “reg­u­la­tory blind spot.”

“If a train­ing and mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem had been in place, some­one could have stepped in and helped the de­ceased be­fore even the first sui­cide at­tempt,” Shin said.

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