CW: Depression, Suicide, Sexual Assualt, & Murder:
On Wednesday, David M. Perry published an opinion piece on CNN. Perry wrote about mental health disabilities affecting college students. Students like Katie Meyer and Rachel Shaw-Rosenbaum, both of whom died by suicide.
Shaw-Rosenbaum was a freshman at Yale. Before her death, she had highlighted the repercussions of leaving Yale in several online posts. Yale University is now being sued because the university allegedly fails to provide accommodations for students with mental health disabilities. Students say that they are encouraged to withdraw instead.
Meyer was just a few months away from receiving her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. She was a gifted athlete and student with a 3.84 GPA. Meyer received an email on February 28 informing her that she would face disciplinary action.
The email came after Meyer allegedly spilled coffee on a football player who was accused of having sexually assaulted a fellow teammate of Meyer’s. Subsequently, a hold was placed on her degree, and she could have been dismissed from the university, according to court documents. Tragically, Meyer was discovered unconscious in her dorm room hours later, in what authorities determined to be a suicide. She still had the email open on her computer. Her parents have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the university.
College students have long struggled with their mental health. According to an exclusive Fortune survey of 1,000 college students conducted by The Harris Poll in June, three in five reported being diagnosed with a mental health condition by a professional. The most prevalent disorders were anxiety and depression.
In addition, an online survey was conducted among undergraduate and graduate students from Texas A&M University in 2020. Among the 2031 participants, 48.14% experienced moderate-to-severe depression, 38.48% had moderate-to-severe anxiety, and 18.04% experienced thoughts of suicide. The majority of individuals reported an increase in stress/anxiety during the pandemic. Less than half of the participants reported being able to cope adequately with the stress of the current situation.
I am one of the millions of people who live with depression. My mental health began to deteriorate in 2019. I was often in tears when I woke up, and I was frustrated. At the time, I was 20 years old and attending Westfield State University, studying communication. I hoped to become a journalist. I love writing and storytelling. I was bored at school. My classes discussed subjects such as sexual assault, death, and murder.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened my mental health. By January 2020, I began taking antidepressants. Remote learning was challenging, and I left Westfield State University. In the fall of this year, I attended Greenfield Community College for a week before withdrawing. Being in a classroom made me extremely anxious. I didn’t want to leave the house to attend my classes. Getting sick was another concern I had. I didn’t want to catch COVID-19 at college.
The last few years have been challenging for almost all of us. Colleges and universities worldwide are ill-equipped to deal with mental health conditions. Everybody should have access to mental health services. The Ivy League schools in particular need to improve their mental health services. No parent should lose their child to suicide. Family members, friends, peers, and communities are forever changed. One student who dies by suicide, like Rachel Shaw-Rosenbaum, is one too many.
Perry, David M. “Opinion: This Is a Problem That Is Bigger than Stanford or Yale.” CNN, Cable News Network, 7 Dec. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/07/opinions/mental-health-college-students-yale-stanford-perry/index.html.
Shammas, Brittany. “Parents Allege ‘Overly Punitive’ Stanford Discipline Led to Soccer Star’s Suicide.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 1 Dec. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2022/12/01/education-stanford-death-lawsuit/.
Su, Amanda. “Yale University Sued for Alleged Discrimination against Students with Mental Health Disabilities.” ABC News, ABC News Network, 1 Dec. 2022, https://abcnews.go.com/US/yale-university-sued-alleged-discrimination-students-mental-health/story?id=94278495.
Wang, Xiaomei & Hegde, Sudeep & Son, Changwon & Keller, Bruce & Smith, Alec & Sasangohar, Farzan. (2020). Investigating Mental Health of US College Students During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Cross-Sectional Survey Study. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 22. e22817. 10.2196/22817.