OCCS pushes suicide intervention protocol

After news of a De La Salle – College of St. Benilde (DLSU-CSB) student jumping off a building inside the campus broke out during the summer, the incident on May 9 has proven to be another entry to the records of university-related suicides, following the UP-Manila case.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Case investigator Police Officer 3 Cris Ocampo of Manila Police District’s Homicide Division said that the Multi Media Arts student Jefferson Tan jumped from the 11th floor of CSB’s Design and Arts Building around 3:20 p.m. The investigators added that Tan was rushed to the hospital and proclaimed dead on arrival.

As the number of cases starts to increase, universities have grown more vigilant and have started to formulate steps and solutions to address, and more importantly prevent, any more incidents from happening.


DLSU suicide cases

In the last three years, three suicide cases involving De La Salle University (DLSU) students have been recorded. Two of the incidents yielded casualties while one had fortunately remained as an attempt.

The first recording was in 2010, when a then College of Business and Economics student shot himself with a .45 calibre gun due to death threats made by his own fraternity mates. In 2011, another student committed suicide jumping off of the 31st floor of a hotel in Alabang, Muntinlupa.

In 2012, a female student from the College of Liberal Arts attempted to commit suicide at the third floor of the Miguel Building, but was convinced by the security personnel and discipline officers to safely return inside the classroom.


Protocols to address future incidents

Counselors from the Office of Career and Counselling Services (OCCS) had already begun addressing issues and concerns pertaining to future suicide cases a few months ago, even prior the DLSU-CSB incident, through the Suicide First Aid Guidelines (SFAG).

“The SFAG is to educate non-counselors, youth and non-helping professions what suicide is especially the signs and symptoms…and how to handle clients who are suicidal,” University Counselor Marissa Pascual RGC says.

At present, the OCCS have formulated a protocol which focuses on suicide intervention and is currently in the works of implementation, involving steps and guidelines on how to handle future cases.

The need to formulate a new protocol came after the last suicide attempt in 2012, wherein the University evidently lacked preparedness in the face of such crisis. Many onlookers were either rattled or fascinated when they initially believed it to be a joke. These reactions proved that the University generally did not know how to handle the situation or help the student in need. These were also reactions that the OCCS readily accepted and sought to change.

Diosdado Quiamno RGC, University Counselor and author of the aforementioned protocol says it was designed to be a mode of prevention, a move that is part of their advocacy to educate the community with the phenomenon and issue of suicide.

Quiamno also mentioned in the paper that the current suicide crisis intervention protocol appears simpler than the crisis protocols established and practiced by leading universities abroad, and that the long term goal is to propose the protocols to the administrators of the University and contribute in the University-wide crisis protocols and management.

However, the OCCS reiterated that it would not be possible without acknowledging the need for collaborative effort among selected DLSU administration staffs, clinic representatives, Students Discipline Formation Office (SDFO), the Offices of the College Deans (OCD), the Vice Deans Office (VDO), and the Student Affairs Office (SAO), in promoting a safe school environment.


 Some efforts being made

The University does its share of looking after the well being of their students with compulsory Personal Effectiveness tracks that need to be taken at least thrice in a student’s stay in DLSU. These Personal Effectiveness classes, handled by the OCCS, are part of the Lasallian Core Curriculum together with theology, recollection, and civil welfare training service courses.

PERSEF1 deals with embodying Lasallian values while examining one’s capabilities and competencies to develop the self. On the other hand, PERSEF2 reinforces the teachings in PERSEF1 while putting a major focus on career development. PERSEF3 is when students’ development in their stay in the University is assessed, and they are therefore encouraged to apply their learning to the community as they move forward.

These tracks, however, are not as intensive in dealing with any personal concerns students may have. The OCCS thus remains open to appointments with students who seek the help of resident university counselors.  In spite of this, students’ awareness of the help that may be available for them is still in question.


Continuing guidance

Angelica Banzon (III, CAM-ADV), an advocate of suicide prevention, believes DLSU does very little to protect the emotional welfare of its students. “There is so much that can still be done. DLSU isn’t only supposed to ensure religious formation and academic excellence, but the emotional stability of its students as well. Students are young adults, and everyone who has ever been a young adult knows of the everyday struggles we face which, if not properly addressed, can take its toll on us emotionally.”

Though the OCCS are continuously looking into which aspects to improve on to be able to propagate their venture of prevention, Pascual wishes to emphasize that the University cannot look after the welfare of its students alone, and that they, the counselors, are bound to inform those with legal responsibilities (the legal parents and guardians) of the welfare of their sons or daughters. Pascual stresses that it still boils down to family relations and ties, and how each household tolerates constant love, assurance, and guidance to a teen under a lot of emotional pressure.

CJ Cachola

By CJ Cachola

Martha Elisse Teves

By Martha Elisse Teves

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