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Columbia College will mandate suicide prevention gatekeeper training for its staff this month and look to implement policies to reduce student stress in the coming semester, Columbia College Dean James Valentini announced in an email to Columbia College students on Monday.

Valentini’s email follows a particularly difficult academic year for undergraduates during which six students have died. A Spectator report published earlier this month revealed that at least four of those deaths were suicides, comprising nearly half of Columbia’s suicides over the past decade. Experts interviewed by Spectator pointed to increased gatekeeper training and stronger community ties as important steps the University could take to prevent further student death.

All Columbia College staff will be trained to recognize and respond to signs of mental health emergencies within the coming month, including staff members in the Berick Center for Student Advising, the Center for Career Education, the Office of Global Programs, Undergraduate Student Life, and the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, among others. Core instructors will also be offered training, according to Valentini.

Valentini also announced that he will meet with undergraduate councils and convene a roundtable of students and staff to discuss methods of lessening “the pressures students are facing” and implementing new New Student Orientation Program sessions.

In an interview with Spectator last month, Valentini indicated he would support placing a limit on the number of credits students can take per semester, a reversal of his long-held prior stance that no such limits should be enforced.

Columbia College administrators will also seek guidance on strengthening mental health resources from the Ivy League Mental Health Conference at Brown University later this month, as well as from Phil Satow, CC ’63 and co-founder of the Jed Foundation, a suicide prevention group.

Valentini encouraged students seeking mental health support for themselves or their friends to use existing resources provided by the college and the University.

aaron.holmes@columbiaspectator.com | @AaronPHolmes

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