Cornell
Bridge
Suicide:
Q&A
 April
1,
2010
 Journalist
Leah
Tedesco
spoke
with
Gregory
Eells,
associate
director
for
 Counseling
and
Psychological
Services
at
Cornell
University,
about
the
recent
 Cornell
suicides
and
the
university’s
plan
for
the
future.


 Leah
Tedesco:
What
sparked
the
cluster
of
suicides?

 Gregory
Eells:
You
look
at
data
about
suicide
and
it’s
not
predictable.
It’s
generally
a
 rare
event.
No
one
can
predict
any
one
suicide.
That
being
said
[suicides]
do
tend
to
 happen
is
clusters
or
groups.
And
a
grouping
is
defined
kind
of
having
more
than
 what
you
would
normally
expect
based
on
statistics
that
happen
in
this
amount
of
 time.
You
can
get
what
is
called
a
contingent
effect.
That
as
being
human
beings
we
 are
social
creatures
and
we
are
influenced
by
what
other
human
beings
do
and
so
 like
what
has
happened
and
has
happened
at
other
colleges
and
universities
is
a
 cluster
of
suicides
with
some
contingent
effect
happening.

 LT:
Is
suicide
a
problem
at
Cornell
University?

 GE:
No,
I
don’t
think
suicide
is
a
problem
at
Cornell.
When
you
look
at
a
 phenomenon
like
suicide
you
have
to
look
at
data
over
decades
and
if
you
look
at
 Cornell’s
data
over
a
twenty
year
period
the
rate
is
not
any
different
than
what
you
 would
expect
nationally,
which
is
about
7.5
suicides
per
100,000
college
students.
If
 you
look
at
our
data
over
20
years,
then
that’s
pretty
consistent.
As
an
institution
we
 went
3.5
years
without
a
single
suicide.
I
think
it’s
tricky
with
Cornell
or
New
York
 University
that
went
through
a
similar
situation,
five
years
ago
that
when
you
have
a
 cluster
people
tend
to
ask
what
is
going
on
in
this
specific
narrow
time
frame?
From
 a
scientific
perspective
that’s
not
the
question.

You
always
want
to
look
at
your
 systems,
you
always
want
to
look
at
what
your
doing,
but
you
also
don’t
want
to
 over
react
to
something
that’s
happening
in
a
fairly
limited
time
period.

 LT:
Why
were
there
three
suicides
in
a
very
short
time
frame?

 GE:
Suicide
like
any
human
behavior
there
are
complex
issues
that
contribute
to
it.
 One
aspect
of
suicide
is
impulsivity.
The
great
study
that
illustrates
that
is
the
 British
coal
gas
study,
which
in
the
70s
the
United
Kingdom
had
a
gas
delivery
 system
and
people
would
put
their
head
in
the
oven
and
die
by
asphyxiation.
When
 the
United
Kingdom
changed
their
delivery
system
so
that
the
gas
was
not
lethal
to
 inhale,
their
suicide
rate
dropped
by
a
third
and
has
never
come
back
up
to
the
same
 level.
A
component
of
suicide
in
general
is
impulsivity,
which
is
why
restriction
is
 important,
blocking
away
chemicals
in
lavatories,
making
sure
high
buildings
are
 locked,
barriers
so
someone
cannot
act
as
impulsively.
The
research
on
that
is
it
 doesn’t
have
to
be
a
barrier
that
is
insurmountable;
it
could
just
be
a
small
barrier.
 There
is
a
documentary
called
The
Bridge
where
it
looks
at
suicides
off
of
the
Golden
 Gate
Bridge
in
San
Francisco.
Where
a
person
was
talking
about
that
they
had
 picked
out
a
specific
spot,
that
is
where
they
impulsively
were
going
to
[jump],
but


[on
the
day
they
were
going
to
jump]
there
was
construction
there
in
that
one
spot
 and
they
could
of
crossed
the
road,
but
they
were
afraid
to
get
hit
by
a
car
and
then
 it
would
of
interrupted
that
kind
of
impulse
—
I’m
feeling
a
lot
of
pain,
I
want
this
 pain
to
end,
and
I’m
going
to
do
it
in
this
specific
way.
Putting
it
in
a
real
simple
way:
 people
take
their
lives,
they
die
by
suicide,
one
because
they
want
to
and
because
 they
can
and
they
are
feeling
much
psychological
pain,
they
want
it
to
end
and
that’s
 clouding
out
any
other
way
of
thinking
about
life
and
they
have
a
means
that
is
 available.
Other
than
that
I
don’t
think
there
is
any
other
midterms
or
stressors,
 family
history,
or
relationships,
or
their
family,
or
a
loss
in
a
relationship,
or
the
way
 they
are
thinking
about
themselves,
the
world.
I
mean
all
of
those
things
play
into
it,
 but
if
you
boil
it
down
they
are
experiencing
some
pain
on
some
level
that
they
just
 want
to
have
it
stop,
that’s
what
is
most
important
and
they
have
a
means
to
do
it.

 LT:
Is
that
the
reason
why
Cornell
installed
the
fences?

 GE:
The
impulse
leads
to
suicides.
As
you
see
on
the
blogs
people
are
saying
if
 someone
wants
to
kill
themselves,
then
they
will
and
sometimes
that
is
true.
In
 some
suicides
people
take
more
steps,
however
there
is
a
large
percentage
of
 suicides
that
are
likely
impulsive
and
that
impulsiveness
and
risk
goes
up
when
you
 have
a
cluster
of
suicides.
The
Center
of
Disease
Control
issues
guidelines
for
this
 reason
to
the
press
about
reporting
—
don’t
talk
about
the
method,
don’t
 memorialize
the
person,
don’t
glorify
the
means
—
all
of
these
things
put
a
greater
 risk
on
the
population
and
create
more
danger.

 LT:
Will
these
fences
be
permanent?

 GE:
If
you
look
at
the
statements
from
the
university
[the
fences]
are
there
until
a
 permanent
solution
can
be
developed.
What
we
are
doing
right
now
is
that
we
are
 talking
to
people.
One
of
the
best
ways
is
to
create
some
barriers
were
you
can
 [decrease]
the
impulse
of
suicides
in
a
way
that
doesn’t
esthetically
take
away
from
 the
bridge
in
a
way.

 LT:
Do
you
think
there
is
a
typical
type
of
student
that
commits
suicide?

 GE:
No,
there
is
no
profile.
There
is
no
definite
explanation.
There
are
a
lot
of
 different
factors
that
make
[suicide]
very
difficult
to
understand
and
impossible
to
 predict.

 LT:
In
one
of
the
Cornell
statements
it
said
that
professional
help
was
being
utilized?
 What
kind
of
professional
help
is
the
university
using?
 GE:
We
were
talking
to
researchers
at
Yale,
Columbia;
we
have
talked
to
some
of
our
 psychiatrists
at
Cornell
for
a
while.
We
are
in
contact
with
people
at
New
York
 University,
who
have
been
through
similar
situations
as
I
referenced.
American
 Foundation
for
Suicide
Prevention.
And
we
are
trying
to
get
the
best
information
to
 make
the
best
decisions
that
we
can.



One
of
the
things
is
that
for
Tompkins
County
I
am
on
the
health
board
and
one
of
 the
things
that
we
acknowledge
is
[suicide]
isn’t
just
a
Cornell
issue,
the
natural
 community,
the
bridges,
the
gorges,
the
cluster
and
the
cotangent
isn’t
just
limited
 to
Cornell.
We
need
to
think
of
our
community
and
our
community’s
safety.
 Hopefully
getting
as
much
information
out
there.
How
do
we
report
on
this?
How
we
 share
information
in
a
way
that
makes
our
community
safer?

And
also
key
 messages
that
getting
help
works.
That
it’s
worth
getting
help
if
you
or
a
friend
is
 having
difficulties.
Therapy
[and]
medication
generally,
for
80
percent,
of
the
folks
 works
very
well
for
depression
or
psychological
pain.

 LT:
Why
hasn’t
Ithaca
College
seen
as
many
suicides
like
those
at
Cornell?

 GE:
I
am
aware
that
students
have
fallen/jumped
from
the
residence
halls.
I
don’t
 think
there
is
a
simple
explanation.
There
are
some
of
the
natural
aspects
on
 Cornell’s
campus
with
the
gorges
surrounding
both
sides
of
it
do
create
some
risks.
 It’s
a
means
that
leads
itself
to
being
impulsive.
Students
walk
across
the
bridges
all
 the
time
and
that’s
our
challenge
with
putting
up
the
fences
is
how
do
you
do
 something
to
restrict
that
needs.
Ithaca
College
is
just
lucky
to
not
have
some
of
 those
kind
of
dangerous
natural
areas.
[The
gorges]
does
create
that
unique
 challenge.