Published: 18th July 2019
Spate of copycat suicides at SRM: Here's how we can make our hostel balconies safer
Since suicides can sometimes be impulsive, should we do something more to prevent entry to spaces that can be potentially dangerous to students?
Within a span of 60 days, three students from SRM Institute of Technology committed suicide by jumping off their hostel balconies. Two of those suicides happened one day after the other. The administration has said they are conducting their enquiries and the DGP has also taken cognizance and has transferred it to the CB-CID. All the articles on the matter end with a helpline number. But should we be doing more?
Every single time a suicide happens, immediately there is an outpouring of suggestions on how we have to make mental health a priority and make help more accessible. Despite promises, students continue to find it difficult to access the counselling and medical help they require. Since suicides can sometimes be impulsive, should we do something more to prevent entry to spaces that can be potentially dangerous to students?
In other educational spaces, managements take away ceiling fans in order to prevent suicides in hostel rooms. In the SRM case, all three students jumped off their balconies. Around the world, bridges, skyscrapers, hotel room balconies have all been identified as areas where people often choose to attempt suicide. However, with college hostels, what can be done?
Restrict entry — Experts recommend that the best way to stop 'jumpers' is to restrict areas to people.
When five suicides occurred in New York University restricted access to the balconies of two of its dormitories which together housed 1000 students. In a statement to the New York Times, the administration had said 179 balconies would have restricted access that prevents doors to the balconies from opening more than four inches.
Build restrictive railings — Guard rails near windows
A Swiss training hospital studied the effectiveness of minimal structural intervention in preventing suicide jumps. According to a research paper, 'a 20 mm diameter metal guard rail would be installed at each of the 1,240 hospital windows to discourage suicidal patients from jumping out of the windows. This metal rail was placed at a height of 113 cm, 18 cm above the window sill. Although most people could climb over this rail with relative ease, it was hypothesized that the rail represented at least some sort of psychological barrier which might deter patients from spontaneous suicidal action.'
Netting the area, fences or raising the height of the railing on the balcony.
Cornell University and Ithaca, New York had also had a spate of suicides in their campus which is why they had decided to install safety netting under the bridges in the area. On the other hand, in Allentown, Pennsylvania, authorities installed suicide fences on a local bridge.
However, most experts state the top priority is to prevent suicidal thoughts from even occurring to students. And that is only possible through counselling and mental health workshops. However, they also say that bringing about a change to architectural designs in order to prevent suicides is also a much-appreciated move.