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January 16, 1982 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 1982-01-16

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OPINION

Page 4
G11E Michigan aiIQ
Edited and managed by students at The University of Michigan

Saturday, January 16, 1982

The Michigan Daily

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Vol. XCII, No. 87

420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

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Editorials represent a majority opinion of the Daily's Editorial Board

Suicide prevention

:

A University priority

F OR MANY, the years spent at
college are among the happiest
and most fulfilling of their lives. But
for some, the freedom of adulthood and
the pressures of university life can
make the college experience-and of-
ten life itself-seem unbearable. The
University should recognize the
danger inherent in this situation and
provide services to aid in suicide
prevention.
The University is a large, highly
competitive academic institution. The
pressure on students to excell is im-
mense. Job hungry students survey the
national employment situation and of-
ten find that the best way to acquire a
job is to get good grades early in a
scholastic career. The pressures
mount as graduation nears, and some
students find it too rough to handle.
All students at the University have
specific problems of their own, and yet
not everyone has the time to consider
the problems of others around them.
But the problems of others do exist,
and often they are serious enough to be
life-threatening. When problems get
this serious, it becomes the respon-
sibility of the University to provide
guidance.
At the University the problem of
severe student depression is real, and
unfortunately, growing. Twenty to 25
suicide attempts occurred within
University housing last year-an in-
crease from previous years. Calls to
76-Guide, the University's counseling
and information hotline, have doubled
.over the past year. Requests for help
from the University counseling service
jumped 20 percent during the 1981-82
academic year.
Although the University should step
in to help relieve these problems,
.many inherent problems surround the
task of suicide prevention. Spotting the
disturbed student before any harm is
done is a major one. Roommates are
not always available, especially at
times when academic pressures are
hottest-such as exam periods. The
tremendous responsibility of finding
the emotionally troubled student is left
to the dormitory's resident advisor. It
is unfortunate that resident advisors
are the only link between a student
facing emotional depression, and the
counseling help he or she may
desperately need. Little can be done to
cure this problem, expect to make RAs

more aware of their role as student
peer counselors.
University RA training in suicide
prevention is scattered and incon-
sistent. Suicide prevention workshops
are held at various dormitories, but the
dormitory advisor must ask for the
workshop to be presented, instead of it
being a mandatory teaching session..
Information given at these workshops
does not focus prevention strategy un-
der one, coherent plan. RAs in Markley
receive different training from RAs in
South Quad, who receive different
training from RAs in Bursley, and so
on. There is no guarantee that training
for RAs at each dormitory is satisfac-
tory. The potential for inconsistencies
is too large.
The University needs a centralized,
consistent program for RAs on how to
aid depressed students and how to spot
potentially suicidal residents. This
method should be taught in mandatory
workshops and made available at
every dormitory.
Earlier in the year the Psychiatric
Emergency -Assistance Coordination
Effort put up a series of posters around
campus in an attempt to make studen-
ts aware of the counseling help that is
available in Ann Arbor. These posters,
however, were too few in number.
Making students aware that help
exists is half of the prevention battle. A
coordinated and extensive effort
should be undertaken to inform
University students that counseling
services are at their disposal, and that
these services can be useful in
relieving the stress of college life.
At the University of Wisconsin, an
institution renowned for its suicide
prevention services, the Dean of
Students office sends out 5,000 letters,
three times a year, to dormitory
residents explaining where and how
help can be found on campus.
Wisconsin has one of the best suicide
prevention programs in the nation, and
the University could easily learn from
its model. In addition to the mailing
campaign, Wisconsin's dormitory staff
undergoes intensive training
workshops in suicide prevention. The
idea behind the Wisconsin program is
to find the troubled students before the
trouble gets too serious. Suicide
prevention is a priority at Wisconsin.
The Univesity should follow its lead.

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Low income child care.

By Mary Jo McConahay
SAN JOSE, CALIF.-Sometimes it seems
as though the kids in San Jose-the fastest
growing city in the United States, according
to the 1980 census figures-live on two dif-
ferent planets, instead of two sides of the
same town.
In a central city neighborhood where
Spanish is the language of the streets and
parents generally bring home slim paychecks
from dead-end jobs, half the teen-agers drop
out of high school and 30 percent of
youngsters between the ages of 10 and 17
travel through the Juvenile Probation Depar-
tment.
MEANWHILE, ON THE patio of a west-
side home, a 37-year-old Stanford University
professor can watch his 7- and 9-year-old boys
play table tennis and ponder the meaning of
prosperity:
"hWhen I grew up, if I wanted a new bike I
had to sell more newspapers or shine shoes,"
he said. "But denying my kids things would
be hycritical... They already have a han-
dle on the system, and they'll go to school and
just won't have to deal with material
limitations "
The "Sowetos" of America-enclaves
within prosperous cities where low-income
and often minority worker families live-look
particularly incongruous just across the
freeway from the manicured neighborhoods
in the new "clean industry" areas of the Sun
Belt States.
HERE THE POOR youngster's dream of
dramatic upward mobility might be thought
to have its best shot. Santa Clara County,
where San Jose is located, now is the heart of
a $100 billion worldwide electronics industry
that has spawned a housing boom, shopping
centers and hundreds of companies strung
like high-tech pearls through the "Silicon
Valley."
But the kids of the local Soweto may never
get out, except for the hours when as adults
they travel to work in hotels, private homes,
gardens and canneries, or on the assembly
lines of Silicon Valley.
The impasse in the road leading out is
visible early. It can be seen in microcosm on a
short drive, from the brightly equipped licen-
sed day-care center where the boys on the
west-side patio spend their afternoons, to the
east side, where young kids take respon-
sibility for even younger kids in parks or front
yards during school hours.
CHILD CARE IS an across-the-board con-
cern in America. There actually are fewer
licensed centers today than there were in
1945. But if it is a headache for some working
parents, it is a nightmare for others-a
nightmare that often returns to haunt the
children themselves.
Solutions range from neighborhood ad hoc
arrangements to last-ditch measures that
tread a fine line between survival strategies

and child abuse.
Graciela M., 36, entered the United States
illegally from her native Mexico 17 years
ago. She still has no proper immigration
documents, and currently works as a
domestic in the office and living quarters of a
religious organization.
I'M LUCKY BECAUSE here I can bring my
daughter while I work and they don't take
anything from my pay," she said. Most of her
friends still work in houses. "The families pay.
them $50 a week, but if you bring your child,
it's $40," she added.
In the big kitchen behind the living quar-
ters, Graciela's 3-year-old played quietly with
the two young boys of the Mexican-American
cook. "I was born here, not like Graciela,"
said the cook. "I could get a better job, but
then what would I do with my kids?"
Graciela is enrolled in an electronics in-
dustry training program. Ironically, should
she land a job in Silicon Valley, where more
than 75 percent of the assembly line workers
are women, her child-care problems would be
worse. While companies compete to provide
amenities such as tennis courts, hot tubs,
swimming pools, Friday afternoon "beer
busts", and staffed recreation centers used
primarily by engineering and executive staff,
they do not sponsor child-care facilities.
Neither do local food processing companies,
the other big employer of minority women.
STUDIES SHOW THAT employer-spon-
sored child care cuts absenteeism, reduces
turnover, and improves morale, but com-
panies feel it simply costs too
much-especially where a ready and willing
labor pool means recruitment is no problem.
Left on their own, the luckiest mothers are
those who can call on the abuelita, the live-in
grandmother or other non-working relatives.
Most unfortunate are those pushed to
desperate measures by necessity and bad
judgment, One local woman cited for child
abuse reportedly kept her children in sight all
day-in a parked car at the service station
where she pumped gas.
In some neighborhoods, ad hoc child-care
centers appear. A mother who stays home,
perhaps with several children of her own, will
keep an eye on children brought to the house.
Going rates are $20 to $50 per month, and
sometimes contributions to the food larder
are good for partial payment.
AT THEIR BEST, these arrangements can
provide warm care. But often the woman has
too many children to keep track of-Graciela
M. removed her daughter from one ad hoc
center for this reason-and if the watching
mother is sick or away for the day, the
working mother is stuck.
The most common marginal form of day
care, however, is leaving small children with
an older brother or sister, sometimes only as
"old" as 8 or 9. It also may be the least
desirable form of day care.
"It means kids are kept out of school to-take
care of younger kids, they have little struc-

ture in their lives, and usually they're ex-
posed hour after hour to television, with its
violence and hypnotic effects," said clinical
psychologist Terry Johnson, herself a mother
of 11.
RECENTLY, SPANISH-speaking women
from a Catholic women's group discovered
several such child-sitters during a day of
visiting San Jose homes to introduce them-
selves to neighbors.:
"Each of us discovered houses where
children were caring for younger brothers
and sisters, usually all planted in front of the
TV set," said Rose Maria Ruiz, the group's
organizer. "In one place, really just a garage
with no windows, I found a boy of about 7 with
an even younger sister, and an infant with a
bottle lying on the couch. The boy said his
mother had to leave for work and his father
wasn't home yet from work. When I asked
him, 'Who takes care of your' he looked
around and said, 'I do.' "
There are physical dangers. A former
property management executive observed
that the majority of fires in the 5,000 units on-
ce under his administration were caused by
children who were taking care of other
children. The fires usually occurred when the
child-sitters tried to prepare food on a stove
or turned on the burned under a pot and forgot
about it as they watched TV or fell asleep.
BUT SOCIAL and psychological dangers
are more widespread. Bill Williams is the
executive director of the San Juan Bautista
Child Development Center on the east side,
one of the largest in the country with 250 dif-
children in a subsidized program-and a
waiting list of hundreds. When older children
are kept at home to watch younger brothers
and sisters, "they never have a chance to be
kids themselves," he said.
"I see them near here tracking down shop-
ping carts and bottles to take back to the store
to get money for themselves and the
youngsters. That kind of hustle-trying to con
people out of things, hard core stuff-can ap-
pear in a youngster's life much too soon:"
At one of the few government-funded cen-
ters here where teen-age mothers can be
provided with infant and child care as the
complete high school, a counselor noted that
many of the girls in the center were therm
selves born to mothers of 16 or 17. a
Irene Sterling, director of San Jose's Youig
Families Program, said such programs try
"to break the cycle" by helping recent high
school graduates find jobs that will enaLtle
them to put their children in licensed day-
care centers.
"There are kids who do make it," said
Sterling, "but they aren't the ones who are
pulled out of school as 9-year-olds to watch
babies."
McConahay wrote this article for
Pacific News Service.

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