Suicidal students are doubly fuct when they play by the rules; suspended in droves for voluntarily seeking help, and sent letters warning that if they come back to campus they will be arrested for trespass.
So they’re faking wellness, learning how to live fraudulent lives, and how important it is to hide the truth, if they don’t kill themselves first. Which would only make sense, because, you know, they’re sick.
Current issue of TIME magazine:
When Colleges Go On Suicide Watch
Anne Giedinghagen wanted desperately to stay in school. Having struggled with depression and anorexia since the sixth grade, the rail-thin Cornell junior was meeting regularly with a therapist at the university’s counseling center in Ithaca, N.Y.
But late last fall, when she told her therapist about her increasingly strong urge to kill herself, Giedinghagen received an ultimatum from the school she loved so much: she had to get better or she would have to leave. So she did what any crafty 20-year-old would do. She tried to carve out a third option–feigning improvement by, as she put it, “acting as normal as I could.”
After lengthy discussions with her therapists, the double major in German and neurobiology agreed to head home last month with plans to enter a psychiatric hospital. Five weeks later, she’s disappointed that Cornell hasn’t made any follow-up calls to see how she’s doing. Cornell’s deputy counsel has an explanation: “Once the student is gone or goes home, the individual becomes the responsibility of parents. Our obligation ends.”
Giedinghagen is one of thousands of troubled college students who each year are forced to make such stark choices. With two recent court rulings holding that college administrators may be held partly responsible for student suicides–which total some 1,100 a year nationwide, making suicide the second leading cause of death among college students, universities have hastily adopted mandatory-leave policies in an effort to reduce the risk of self-inflicted, on-campus deaths.
The pressure to inoculate schools from legal liability has sometimes led them to come across as shockingly insensitive. In a case study ofapparent hamhandedness, Jordan Nott had spent less than 48 hours in the psychiatric ward he checked himself into, in October 2004, when he received a terse letter from George Washington University informing the sophomore that he had been suspended for being a danger to himself and others. “It was a huge slap in the face,” says Nott, 20. “They don’t hand out this letter that says, ‘We want you to get help.’ What it says is, ‘You’ve been suspended; you’ve been barred from campus.'” The letter went on to explain that if he returned to campus, he would be arrested. A spokeswoman for G.W.U. says that because Nott’s suspension fell within the school’s disciplinary system, the wording of that letter may have seemed impersonal. However, she stresses, “the goal here was to protect a life.”
But how, exactly, does yanking a kid out of college count as protection?
Schools … argue that their mandatory-leave policy can force emotionally distressed students to get the best possible help.
By sending them home? We might admit that people develop mental problems from having been traumatized and that home is where trauma happens.
And then we get some geography between self and home, learn for once that we are safe, is when the craziness starts, suppressed feelings begin to emerge and shit comes up, you know, the wreckage? Some of these feeling states may well be difficult! Respect their development.
It’s a beginning and distance makes it happen. Institutions of crock-of-shit higher education should know better than to disrupt the process, which happens when you threaten to throw troubled people into psych wards, much less send them back to the place it started, destroy their dreams and make self-stigmatizing liars out of them too.
God Bless our litigious society, no choice but to respect that process, ha ha, motherfuckers, we’ll see what develops there too.