It Shouldn’t Take a Suicide
Until we demand mental health services, AU will not change its policies.
Despite the growing dialogue, the stigma attached to mental health issues persists. Despite the large number of people who struggle every day, the struggling is often done in secret. Even at AU, an institution know by many for its progressive practices, there is a gap.
Many students I know had to wait up to a month to have their first appointment with the Counseling Center. Mental health services are expensive, especially in D.C., and unaffordable for some. So, what can these students do?
Right now we are essentially telling them to keep quiet and deal with it on their own. While I do not doubt the Counseling Center is operating to the best of its abilities, the University is failing us. The lack of action and funding is another way of saying that mental health issues are just not important enough.
In Spring 2014, a scandal involving students at an unofficial fraternity, Epsilon Iota, brought a lot of attention to this school. This sparked a campus wide change in policies and practices regarding sexual assault, for which I am very grateful. The issue AU chose to finally address has devastating effects on survivors and harms the community as a whole. While I am so happy the University has finally invested more here, it scares me about what it might take for the University to pay more attention to mental health.
Close to my hometown is the highly esteemed University of Pennsylvania. Within the past academic year, there were at least four suicides there. About 1100 college students commit suicide each year. Even more than this attempt suicide, and far more than that consider it. This is not something that just happens at other schools. It is something that many AU students have experienced, including myself.
As I said, AU labels itself as a very progressive institution, and in many ways it is. But the school continues to ignore the issue of mental health, leaving many to suffer in silence. AU gets away with doing this partially because of the stigma associated with speaking out. When the school was put in a very public position in the spring regarding Epsilon Iota, it figured out a way to deal with it and updated us every step of the way. Until we demand mental health services, AU will not change its policies.
It shouldn’t take a suicide.
Kelly Davis is a senior in the School of Public Affairs.