Monday, October 23rd meeting with Dr. Lori Ideta, Dr. Allyson Tanouye, Mr. Michael Kaptik
Some issues and suggestions about student deaths
Student deaths and the trauma that follows. Announcing deaths to the faculty of the student who died but not to other faculty is not effective, especially when a death occurs in a public space, like a dorm. Students are part of various communities, and not acknowledging the death of a member of our community does harm to those left behind. First, it puts the burden of notification on those closest to the deceased, which is unnecessary and cruel. Secondly it complicates grieving when close friends of the deceased are affected, but the broader community is unaware of what is happening and trying to deal with the affected persons who are distant, non-responsive, and show signs of unexplained depression.
Write a protocol for campus death announcements to be made easily accessible on-line. Try, so far as possible, to be transparent: announce student deaths early on. There's no need to say how they died, just that they did, write a letter to the larger community about that student's contribution to UHM, and be sure to write to parents and close friends of the student. Without a general announcement from administration (not simply from Ka Leo), or a memorial service of some kind, grieving by students affected by the death is rendered more difficult.
After a death on campus, students who were close to the deceased or who witnessed the death will be traumatized and need help.
Provide counselors on a “clear the desk” basis and make such assistance public, via UHM email, that counseling is immediately available. In addition, post flyers across campus throughout the year advertising the Counseling Center, and what they offer to students.
Because suicide is a major cause of death in college and graduate-school age students, create a pro-active response. Instead of fearing “suicide contagion,” announce (apart from any specific instance) that suicide is a problem, create a public list of symptoms of suicidal ideation (obsession with suicide), and act to prevent suicide. Train faculty, staff, and students, making them aware of the problem and especially of how to react to it. Beyond that, act proactively to intervene with students exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, or other traumatic life events such as death, disability, or divorce,
--What we can do:
As a small hui of concerned university citizens, we are willing to lobby administrators, legislators, and student groups. If a concrete proposal is offered to us to help in any of the ways we've mentioned, we have a financial backer. We are willing to serve on a committee to create the protocols. We are willing, in our daily lives, to treat our students with compassion and to educate our colleagues who lack experience with these issues.
Signed: Susan M. Schultz, Aurora Kagawa-Viviani, Victor Ruthig, Michelle Tigchelaar, Marguerite Butler, Peter Hoffenberg, George Willkens, Rebecca Evans, Philippe Busse