Report Sees Need for Cornell to Continue Suicide Barriers on Bridges

June 23, 2010

A report by three outside experts on suicide has urged Cornell University to continue for now the barriers placed on bridges over gorges in the wake of six suicides in the last academic year. The barriers have been described as temporary, but the report says that it is "vital" to keep the barriers while longer-term changes are considered. The suicides have given the gorges "iconic status" as suicide sites, the report says, even though the rate of suicide over time at Cornell (not the cluster in the last year) has been consistent with national higher education data. "Most individuals who jump from iconic sites are ambivalent, act impulsively, [and] choose a specific site," the report says. So if these individuals are deterred from suicide at a particular time, they most often do not later kill themselves, meaning that the barriers have a "substantial probability" of saving lives. Susan Murphy, vice president for student and academic services, said in a statement: "The beauty of our landscape is vital to the identity of Cornell and Ithaca. I'm confident that we will find a way to balance our need to experience the natural beauty of the gorges with our concern for the safety of our most vulnerable students and community members."

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