One of my favorite social psychologists is Johnathan Haidt. In his influential book, “The Coddling of the American Mind,” he delves deep into the prevailing culture of overprotection that has seeped into American youth. Haidt identifies several “untruths” that have been perpetuated in American Universities:   

  1. The Untruth of Fragility: “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.” 
  2. The Untruth of Emotional Reasoning: “Always trust your feelings.” 
  3. The Untruth of Us Versus Them: “Life is a battle between good people and evil people.” 

Haidt suggests that by pandering to these untruths, we are inadvertently raising a generation less equipped to handle the real world. He advocates that to develop ‘anti-fragile’ youth capable of confronting and combating these widespread misconceptions, we must remove some of the over-protective barriers, particularly at our institutions of higher learning. 

I agree with Haidt, but in addition to his suggestions I believe that creating a culture of physical safety at our universities is equally important and contributes to the same goal. If we want resilient youth that can confront the nuance of the world, we need to create physically safe environments. A foundational aspect of building resilience is having a stable and secure environment during formative years, this includes physical safety. Unnecessary death and danger to student lives leads to less resilient youth. Yes, we must equip our students with the mental tools to face challenges, but we must first ensure that learning environments are physically safe. As Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs suggests, ‘safety needs’ provide the foundation for higher-level needs to function and thrive in the world.  

Fire safety protocols are an excellent testament to universities’ commitment to this cause. Over the years, universities have diligently maintained fire safety standards, and the results are heartening. The marked decrease in fire-related deaths on campuses stands as proof of these efforts. According to the Center for Campus Fire Safety, only 8 fires have occurred in on-campus buildings or residence halls since 2000, claiming 10 victims.   

However, when we juxtapose these figures against the grim statistics of medical emergencies, particularly Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), a startling contrast emerges. While fires have become rarer events, the crisis of SCA looms large. According to one of our partner organizations, Parent Heart Watch, SCA is the #1 killer of student athletes and the leading cause of death on school campuses. This discrepancy makes a clear case for universities to increase attention and resources towards comprehensive AED programs to bring consistency to their overall safety approaches.  

It’s commendable that we’ve successfully lowered the fire-related incidents on campus. But given the comparatively higher occurrence of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, it’s time to ask: Are we channeling our safety resources effectively? AED programs offer a robust solution to combat the lurking danger of Sudden Cardiac Arrest, potentially saving countless lives, reducing unnecessary trauma, and contributing to safer environments. 

As Heidt expresses, with most experiences, what doesn’t kill you may make you stronger however Sudden Cardiac Arrest likely will literally kill you without appropriate response and should thus be taken seriously. Creating spaces that protect physical health permits individuals to focus on higher level needs and challenges that build resilience. By investing in comprehensive AED programs, universities can not only uphold their commitment to safety but can also ensure that their campuses remain vibrant hubs of learning, growth, and grit.