November 14, 2003

Questions about suicide policy

A front-page article in this issue of the Maroon explores the University's policy on suicide attempts. The policy is a delicate one, balancing tensions between the students' need of confidentiality and the administration's need to protect students, between the University's responsibility to each student and its commitment to the overall community.

For students in need of immediate counseling, the possibility that SCRS might disclose confidential information is frightening. But while this policy may deter some students from turning to the University's mental health center, there is another possibility just as frightening—the possibility that SCRS let the life of a client slip away by not sharing crucial, albeit confidential, information.

The article raises questions with no clear answers. The Maroon offers no overall judgment on the situation, as many details of Julie's specific case are unavailable because of confidentiality issues. We commend Dr. Tom Kramer on his efforts to increase the visibility of the SCRS and also on his formation of a student panel.

The student panel, when assembled, should focus its efforts on issues of confidentiality. It should explore the relationship of sharing information between the SCRS and the dean's office, with the hope of increasing the degree to which visits to the SCRS are kept confidential. The panel should also review the confidentiality form required of all students who visit the SCRS, in hopes that a more explicit policy would make the terms of confidentiality more clear for students in need of mental help.