Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Copycat Catchup: NYU's balconies, Russian roulette, Minnesota fallout (news from Red Lake, Spokane gun incident)

It has been a busy week. Here's some items that have come to my attention in recent days.

NYU's balconies

On March 29, New York University's student paper, the Washington Square News broke the news that NYU was going to be closing all the balconies at two more dorms on campus to discourage jumping suicides. On March 30, the rest of the New York media - New York Times, Newsday, New York Post - picked up the story. Following two suicide leaps from the atrium of the Bobst Library, and after the series reached five recent NYU jumping suicides, the copycat effect certainly was occurring. NYU consulted with many specialists, including calling and talking to me, reading my book, and then decided to limit access to the lethal means, the dorm balconies. As one news source noted, it is no different that building a fence to prevent suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge. In answer to the students' and other critics who quickly said: "Well, if people want to kill themselves, they will just go to another method," - no, that may occur, but it usually does not. The copycatting of jumping is very real. The interruption of the suicidal plan that saves lives is a reality of suicide intervention and prevention work.

I'm at the University of New England today, to give a noontime talk to a student and faculty group there about college suicides.

Russian roulette

I got an email over the weekend from a colleague asking about The Deer Hunter and requesting some advice on talking to a teacher who had shown the film last week to a classroom of students, without even discussing it. Remarkably, the teacher had stopped the film at the point of the Russian roulette scene, and had the students rent it to watch at home. Of course, The Deer Hunter has a graphic depiction of Russian roulette and almost 50 copycat deaths are know to have been linked to viewing it. Needless to say, I recommended this parent share those passages in my book, filled with the case examples and research about The Deer Hunter, with the teacher. I learned yesterday she had, and the teacher was unaware, and thus shocked by this information. Education, education, education. Whew.

As fate would have it, I had recently learned that on March 22, 2005, according to Orange County law enforcement officials, an Apopka, Florida man, Jeremiah Overstreet, 27, had killed himself after watching the movie "Man on Fire" with his girlfriend at his home in Apopka. There is a scene in the movie in which the Denzel Washington character plays Russian roulette. As one media outlet, Local 6 News too graphically noted: "Overstreet put his own gun to his head knowing that there was one bullet inside the gun. The gun fired and hit Overstreet in the head. He was pronounced dead at the scene."

Red Lake Fallout

Another arrest has occurred in Red Lake, Minnesota. Investigators suspect there was a wider attack planned and have taken the tribal chairman's son into custody, according to the Pioneer Press of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Meanwhile, "The Devil in Red Lake" is the ill-advised and truly unfortunate headline in this week's Time Magazine, with reference to Jeff Weise and the school shootings at Red Lake, Minnesota.

With headlines like "Teen motivated by shootings in Minnesota," the Associated Press and MSNBC reported that a 14 year old Ferris High School (Spokane, Washington) student was arrested for bringing a loaded gun to his former school on Thursday, March 24. He allegedly planned to kill a teacher and himself, and told investigators he was partly motivated by the recent deadly shootings at a school on a Minnesota Indian reservation. He had taken the gun from his father. Police say the youth wrote a suicide note, then took the gun to Ferris High, where he saw his intended victim, a teacher inside a doorway. He came within six feet of the teacher, police said, but because others were around, he didn't carry out his plan. A family member called police after finding the boy's note. Officers later found the teen walking about four blocks from the school. Some news reports appear to say he was arrested on Friday, but it seems he was taken into custody on Thursday.

1 comment:

EarthCitizen #23 said...

Didn't know where to post this, just found your blog today, and got off on a tangent.. found this.....
..............."interesting fact about the NYU library: if you stand on the top floor (south side) and gaze downward you may not feel the urge to kill yourself anymore. it was purposely designed to reduce suicide jumpers. if you look at the tops of the metal gates on each floor they are designed to look like crosses while the floor was designed to look like spikes that are far away. it was, of course, inspired by MC Escher’s drawing “Depth.” "

Posted by: toby at September 2, 2003 05:51 PM on