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Pennsylvania State University

Penn State/PSU Campus News

771 walk to raise suicide awareness
by The Daily Collegian - News content feed
Apr 11, 2011
“Students and volunteers gathered Saturday afternoon at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park to raise awareness for suicide and depression...”
LGBTQA community grows, thrives
by The Daily Collegian - News content feed
Jan 01, 2010
“Allison Jones said she constantly asks herself why she still attends vigils honoring gay students lost to suicide, hate...”
LGBTQA discusses safety, security issues
by The Daily Collegian - News content feed
Oct 08, 2010
“In response to six suicides by gay students in the past month, about 50 students, faculty, staff and community...”
Student death ruled a suicide
by The Daily Collegian Online - News
Aug 07, 2010
“The Thursday morning death of a Penn State student who fell from the Beaver Avenue Garage has been ruled a suicide, Centre County Coroner Scott Sayers said Friday.
Sayers said no signs of alcohol or other substances have been found in the student's system at this point.”

Police: Loaded handgun, suicide note found in couple's home
by The Daily Collegian Online - News
Apr 20, 2009
“After storming the residence of a reportedly "violent" College Township married couple, armed police officers found the two unconscious with a loaded handgun and suicide note nearby, according to a police press release.”
Suicide statistics hit home
by The Daily Collegian Online - News
Sep 12, 2007
“The suicide rate for the 10- to 24-year-old age group increased 8 percent in 2004, the largest single-year increase in 15 years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Friday.”
New bill may help 'at risk' students
by The Daily Collegian Online
Jul 13, 2007
“Penn State President Graham Spanier supports a new bill that would allow universities to contact the parents of students who may pose "a significant risk" to their own safety or to that of others, a university official said.
Lisa Powers, director of the Penn State department of public information wrote in an e-mail that Spanier backs the Mental Health Security for America's Families in Education Act, which was proposed by Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa. in May.
The bill would amend the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, which Murphy has said "over-interpreted and extended" the bill's mentions of educational records to include medical ones.
Medical records would remain confidential under the bill, which would instead only inform parents of potential problems.
Dr. Dennis Heitzmann, director of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), said he supports what the bill looks to accomplish.
"I think generally, any time we can get word out to responsible individuals who may be in a position to reduce harm to one's self or others, it's a good idea," he said.
Murphy, who earned a Ph.D. in psychology, said stories like that of Chuck Mahoney, an Allegheny College student who committed suicide in 2003, might have been avoided with this bill.
Mahoney's fraternity brothers warned administrators he had stopped taking his medication and might commit suicide. The administrators' hands were tied by the privacy act and could not notify his family.
"A lot of schools have been very hesitant to notify anybody because they're afraid of being sued," Murphy said.
Murphy added that he wants schools to be able to "make a decision based on what's best for the student, not what their lawyers said."
Though Cho Seung-Hui, the Virginia Tech student responsible for killing 32 people and himself, was ordered to receive outpatient treatment after being ruled a danger to himself through a Virginia court, The Associated Press reports that there was no indication that Cho ever received the treatment. Cho may have been able to benefit from a notification system similar to the one outlined in the bill, reports indicate.
The bill would allow concerned faculty members outside mental health professionals to make the initial recommendation. Heitzmann gave an example in which a resident assistant might be disturbed or concerned about a student and make a report, eventually reaching CAPS.
Heitzmann said the bill calls for written certification by a mental health provider for notification, although he would prefer a step seeking consultation.
"The only time we can break confidentiality is if there is 'the imminent risk of harm to self or others,' " Heitzmann said. "That's a very rare circumstance. If I had a client in counseling who was making it very clear that they were going to walk out of my office and harm somebody else, there is a duty to try to stop them."
Heitzmann noted that in certain situations, contacting the parents might not be the right course of action, such as if the student suffered from family problems. He said notification would be "ideally ... with the student's knowledge and their approval."
Adam Nedorezov (sophomore-electrical engineering) said his threshold would be if a student was "really threatening, where it seems like they're more likely to do it than just contemplating the possibility."
Reilly Robinson (freshman-mathematics) said university officials need to be careful.
"I'd want a note, something written down, something concrete," she said. "It sounds like a good idea, but a little bit idealistic."”

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