Following the Sept. 16 death of a USF student at the Beard parking lot, USF Director of Health Donna Petersen announced in an email that fencing would be erected around the levels. campus car parks.
While it’s great that USF acknowledges the tragedy, a few fences won’t solve the problem. Instead, that money should go towards improving the counseling center and other mental health resources.
Many USF students have shown their support for the new fencing by signing petitions. One started by USF student Victoria Abernathy, the change.org obtained 462 signatures.
“Suicide is a very serious issue that must be addressed appropriately and appropriate resources must be provided to those who need help on the USF campus,” Abernathy said.
It is true that suicide is a very real problem on college campuses. Of 54,497 students surveyed, more than 14% of students had seriously considered suicide and 2.3% had attempted suicide in the past year, according to the American College Health Association Spring 2019. National College Health Assessment.
At USF, there have been three campus suicides since 2019, according to university police public records obtained by The Oracle.
These students, and others with mental health issues, need support. A new fence will not provide this.
The estimated cost of these fences is $220,000, according to a 2016 study report by the International Parking Institute. This money could go a long way toward improving the school’s more practical mental health resources, such as the counseling center.
Recently, there have been a few complaints from students about the counseling center and the services it offers. Students resented not being able to schedule appointments as quickly or as frequently as they would like, and some felt it made it difficult to get the help they needed, as described in an Oracle from the October 6. column.
Although the center has helped many students, it seems clear that some are falling through the cracks. This money could help the Advice Center minimize these complaints by ensuring it has enough resources and staff to provide the best possible care to students.
The counseling center currently has an annual budget of nearly $3 million, according to USF 2020-21 Operating Budget. This additional funding could be used to hire more counselors to help students who are considering suicide get the professional help they need quickly and easily.
Following this incident, USF made some improvements to on-campus mental health care.
TimelyCare was added to the list of mental health services offered by the university. This digital platform offers on-demand care 24/7 and is completely free for students.
This was a step in the right direction, and USF should continue to add and improve resources like these instead of just erecting fences.
“Being a great university is not just about academic and research excellence. It’s also about creating an environment where everyone can thrive,” Petersen said. “We are committed to providing this environment and will continue to implement new measures to support the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff across all campuses.”
Fences are expensive and will do little to create and foster such an environment at USF. Pouring this money into improving the university’s mental health services will help address the root of this problem.
Suicide is tragic and preventable. By making it easier for students to get the help they need, USF can prevent this from happening again.