The standoff between police and a suicidal student that led to a tense 17-hour shutdown of two blocks off-campus last Sunday, Oct. 13, was the latest of a number of high profile gun-related suicidal incidents to occur at Temple in the past few years.
Despite the incidents, suicide rates at Temple remain lower than the national average, a statistic that officials credit to the growing use of Tuttleman Counseling Services.
In Spring 2012, a male alumnus shot himself on Liacouras Walk on a busy Friday night, leaving a harrowing scene on Temple’s main pedestrian walkway. In November of that year, a female student shot herself in her car, parked in the Liacouras Parking Garage.
According to a 2002 study by the American College Health Association, seven out of 100,000 students commit suicide annually. Another report by researchers at the University of Texas found that 18 percent of college students have seriously considered suicide.
“Just do the math on that,” said Director of Tuttleman Counseling Services John DiMino. “With a school of 40,000 students, about two to three or more [students] are expected per year, just based on statistics.”
DiMino said within the past year, the amount students using Tuttleman Counseling Services has risen about 8 percent, beating last year’s previous record.
“If the number of students who come in here is any indication, we’re doing a good job,” he said. “People want these kinds of services.”
DiMino said at the start of the year that the university has allocated additional funds to the center, allowing them to take on new staff and accommodate more students.
Sophomore neuroscience major Merriam Azim said recent tragedies on campus may stem from the social stigma associated with mental illness.
“I have a bunch of friends that are going to therapy at Tuttleman, and they’re saying it’s really helping them out,” Azim said. “The thing is getting people not to be embarrassed about it and get help.”
DiMino said students should remember that depression and anxiety are treatable diseases, and it’s important to get involved with treatment both through counseling services offered by the university as well as the help of friends and family.
“I think some people are better able to let their loved ones know that they’re in trouble, and some people aren’t, and that’s sad because you know there are resources here to help them,” DiMino said.
Janeni Nayagan, a sophomore biology major, said Temple’s counseling services must be advertised better to students in order to be effective.
“I didn’t even know that Tuttleman had counseling,” she said..
Acting Executive Director of Campus Safety Services Charlie Leone said, in combination with undiagnosed mental illness, many of these incidents are a result of student access to firearms, urging that while not many students are carrying weapons, those that do are at higher risk.
“It’s always been told that if you have access to a firearm and you have mental health issues, your tendency for suicide will increase,” Leone said. “We feel that it is more of a danger than any type of help that can be given by carrying a gun.”
According to a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2002, states in which gun ownership is more prevalent have higher suicide rates.
The Tuttleman Counseling Services’ walk-in clinic hours are 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday hours are 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. For after-hours assistance, there are self-help resources posted on the website and an on-call counselor. Students in need are advised to call the center at 215-204-7276.
Cindy Stansbury can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.