Content warning: This article discusses suicide and mental illness.
Adding to the list of things we can’t believe exists in 2020, The Batangas State University (BSU) trended for its “non-suicide contract” as part of their counseling and we’re livid.
What’s a “non-suicide contract?” It’s a non-legal, controversial contract in which one party commits to not harm themselves. However, these are only used in therapy—it’s not something you’d go into with your school.
The school’s contract asked for, among other things, a promise from the signee to get rid of all activities and thoughts that might promote the infliction of harm or death. It also asked the signee to provide a list of people they can call on.
This non-suicide contract is officially part of the Batangas State University’s Office of Guidance and Counseling Manual 2017 edition.
The contract was posted online and quickly went viral, with many groups and mental health advocates condemning it. Among these groups that spoke out was Samahan ng Progresibong Kabataan (SPARK), a youth group. Their post reads, “Last night, September 25, images on social media revealed that the Batangas State University had released a no-suicide contract for its students to sign. It bound the signatory to, among other things, remember that they were deeply cared for, remember to call certain people if they felt they could not abide by the terms of the contract, and remember to ‘never attempt to commit suicide.’”
“What makes this even worse is how schools’ first instinct is to escape accountability by creating what is essentially a get-out-of-jail-free card that they can use as their token effort to ‘care’ for their students. Instead of adjusting the requirements, providing greater resources for students to access the Internet, or declaring an academic freeze, they instead choose to leave students to die, and brandish a piece of paper when held to account for it.”
The school released a press statement on its official Facebook page on Sept. 27. “The purpose of this non-suicide contract is to assist the clientele to establish a mindset that it is not okay to commit suicide. Moreover, the contract provides the identified user a constructive avenue to see the reality that he/she is responsible to take care of his/her life with the intention of rebuilding his/her self-esteem as an essential part of coping.”
The university stood firm on its belief that this contract partnered with proper counseling helps in the prevention of suicide. They added in their statement, “Studies show that the non-suicide contract—also called a no-harm contract, no suicide agreement, suicide prevention contract—can develop a commitment to constructive action. In our experience, the use of the non-suicide contract coupled with counseling helps prevent suicide. The clientele undergoes counseling because they want to be helped. That is why the process of interaction is very important together with the contract. Protocols are highly observed by the professional helpers of the University in using this tool.” Which is odd, considering that studies on the existence of a “non-suicide” contract are heavily divided.
Even if there were good intentions behind the implementation of the contract, it puts the responsibility on the student as if making a promise like that will do anything for them and their mental health. The belief that a piece of paper might help ease the harrowing thoughts of someone who is struggling every day is naive and damaging. Suicide is a serious matter and this move does all harm and no good. It’s time these institutions actually care and take responsibility for the wellbeing of their students.
The Preen.ph team has reached out to Batangas State University for their comment on the issue. We have yet to receive a response.
Art by Tricia Guevarra
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