COLLEGE

Hey College Students, Going On A Roof Or Balcony After Drinking Is Dangerous

Far too many college students are injured, or killed, falling from high places.

In 2014, The Atlantic published a cover story that argued many fraternities were out of control. One aspect of the article that stuck out to several media outlets (including this one) was the fact that it included 21 instances of someone falling off a frat house

However, the problem of students, usually intoxicated, falling from high places and being injured or killed is not unique to fraternities.

In cases where alcohol or drugs were suspected to play a role, young people have died falling from 10 stories, from nine storiesseven stories, five storiesfour stories and three stories. If you're lucky enough to fall from the second story, you might not be killed, but you could be injured. Then again, falling two floors could still kill you

A website called compelledtoact.com, maintained by the family of a student who died in an alcohol-related snowmobile accident, lists dozens of examples of American students falling to their death while drinking. Students have died falling from balconies at parties outside the U.S. as well

"It's a question of using your head -- but that's part of the problem when it comes to alcohol, is that you lose the ability to do that," said George Koob, Ph.D, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "You just have to be careful about exposing yourself to physical harm by accident because of the motor coordination and the disinhibitory effects."

One 2009 study looked at students ages 18-24 who died from falls over a three-year period. Two-thirds of that group, or 386 students, died from alcohol-related falls.




Figures&nbsp;are from a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2701090/">2009 study</a>&nbsp;that looked at
Figures are from a 2009 study that looked at falling deaths among students ages 18-24.

The numbers may not be massive, but given that most, if not all, of these deaths are preventable, they represent a problem.

Sometimes it's not falling from a balcony, dorm or frat house window, it's falling from climbing something you shouldn't -- like the University of Arizona student who died last year climbing a tower. 

The point is that in the vast majority of these cases, the students were intoxicated, and someone could've stopped them from risking their physical safety.

Nicole May fell from a third-story balcony after drinking at a dorm at the University of California, San Diego, in 2014. She broke several bones, including all of her right ribs, and had a collapsed lung. 

"Right after my accident and I was released from the hospital, I started to hear about several different balcony and roof related falls," May told The Huffington Post. "It was scary because in all of those cases the person died. I didn't."

May still questions why no one stopped her from going out on the balcony after drinking, but doesn't blame anyone for her accident. Instead, she hopes others learn from her experience. She survived, thankfully, but it took her months to recover, as she described in a mini-documentary:

F A L L E N from R3 on Vimeo.

"It's natural to warn someone if they are getting too close to a ledge, but at the same time no one actually thinks that you or someone you know would actually fall," May said. "I think it's important for people to care and warn those who can't make the best decisions for themselves because we would want someone to take care of us, too."

As University of Missouri Wellness Resource Center Director Kim Dude explained, "If somebody drinks to the point of intoxication, they're not going to consciously think, 'OK, this is a dangerous thing I’m about to do.' That's all the more reason to have somebody sober there."

Obviously, all of these things could happen off campus, to people of any age. You don't have to be drinking to put yourself in a risky situation where you're a little too close to the edge of a balcony. But given that getting hammered has become so closely associated with the American college experience, there are more opportunities to put yourself at risk. 

So please, college students, watch out for your friends. Don't let them goof around on a roof or next to the edge of a balcony when they've been drinking. 

Julia Bush contributed reporting.

CONVERSATIONS