Posted tagged ‘please talk’

No more unanswered cries for help

October 3, 2010

I believe that for most people the student experience is a happy one. It is a time to develop one’s potential and make friends, and most of us leave university with good memories. But it is not like that for absolutely everyone. For a small number of people it is a lonely experience, or a frightening one, or a humiliating one. If they are able to turn to someone for support and help, all these things can be overcome; but sometimes no-one seems to be there for them.

A few days ago Tyler Clementi, a freshman (first year) student in Rutgers University, New Jersey, committed suicide after his sexual encounter with a man was unknown to him streamed live on the internet; his roommate and one other student have been charged with invasion of privacy. Clementi was a gifted musician with good prospects, but the humiliation of the webcast was apparently more than he could bear, and he could not or did not find anyone to whom he could turn for help or reassurance.

The story is a tragic one, but unfortunately not unique. And what it tells us is that it is vital for all of us who are in higher education (and I am sure in other walks of life) to keep an eye out for those who may be depressed or uncomfortable or in despair, or who may be victims of bullying or abuse. And it is important for universities and colleges to offer support to all who may need it in this way. In this context, it is also worth mentioning again the ‘Please Talk‘ campaign that is run in Irish higher education.

And for those who feel pressure or anguish of any kind, it is important to say that they need not be alone, and that there are many out there willing to talk and help. Including this writer.

Please talk

July 23, 2008

Earlier this year I had the privilege of being present to support the launch by all the Irish universities of the ‘Please Talk‘ campaign. The purpose of this is to encourage students to talk to their friends, family, counsellors and faculty about any problems they may have. For many, a university can be a lonely place; before they get to us, they will usually have been in a school setting where much more attention is paid to them individually, and where social networks are highly developed. But when they get to university, they are expected to be self-motivated and autonomous; many thrive in that environment, but for some the transition is difficult.

Even later in their studies, some students may find that they are facing worries or concerns – whether in their studies or in their personal lives – that become a burden for them. The ‘Please Talk’ campaign aims to make them aware of how they can access people who will be able to offer them support and listen to their problems and issues. 

In fact, not long after arriving in DCU I took the view that being accessible to those who need help is a vital part of my role also. Every year I write a letter to all incoming undergraduate students to reassure them that if they need advice and support they will have access to help, and inviting them to email me directly if they are unsure about whom to contact. A number of them do, and I am usually able to get them in touch with someone who can help – or else I will talk to them myself. Similarly, university staff with personal issues get priority in my calendar.

My point here is not to suggest that I am doing anything special – it’s just my job. Rather, it is that we all still need the personal assurance that someone is always willing to talk with us and to support us during difficult times. Large organisations – and all universities are large organisations – have special responsibilities not to let anyone get lost in the system and find themselves in despair.

So, to be true to my claims, my email address is president@dcu.ie. Please talk.