Responding to loss

Monday, January 23, 2017

When our community experiences a tragic loss, coming together with others is one of the most basic, human steps we can take in the face of grief, confusion, or profound sadness. For some, this may be with friends. For others, student-life advisers, clergy or counselors provide important conversation and comfort.  

After losses to suicide or unintentional injury, questions about what we might have done to step in, to provide help, to make a difference, can weigh especially heavily.

While every one of us who works on these issues is always thinking about how to strengthen students’ connections to the mental health and substance abuse services they need, these kinds of losses reinforce how desperately important it is that we do this. We feel this especially right now, as the undergraduate schools have recently suffered several losses. While each of these students had their own personal history and circumstances, these losses deeply affect our community and the pressing nature of our work moving forward.

Even more, we know that this work is deeply challenging, not only here and at other colleges and universities, but also nationwide. Loss by suicide and unintentional injury, including overdose, are the two leading causes of death among young adults throughout the United States.

So, in this post, I want to first remind you that we have extensive resources for support, counseling (including addiction and depression) and wellness at Columbia. You can use these for yourself or to seek help if you are worried about a friend. All resources, including 24/7 contact information, are on the University Life app and at this link.

I also want to invite any of you who would like to get more involved in strengthening mental health and wellness on campus to contact University Life at universitylife@columbia.edu or here.

Last spring, we worked with a student-organized Mental Health Task Force, which includes students from all undergraduate schools, and joined them for a meeting with President Bollinger, who reinforced the great importance of these issues and his deep commitment to further work on them. This year, in partnership with the Task Force, we are planning an interactive workshop about reducing stress, accessing support and enhancing wellness within our community.

Columbia is also home to some of the world’s leading researchers and service providers focused on young adult mental health. Through a working group that University Life convened earlier this year, these experts are thinking about cutting-edge ways to strengthen the link between students and mental health and wellness services even further.

Even with all of this, words that can respond to the heartbreak of loss are hard to find. And so I close by sharing my own commitment that we will do all we can, marshalling deep expertise and profound compassion, to provide support, service and hope to all in our community.

- Suzanne Goldberg
Executive Vice President for University Life