This past spring, near the end of the year, a couple of suicides on campus gripped the Ohio State University community and there was a (for me) unprecedented amount of discussion about mental health and mental health resources on campus. Many students (and faculty, too) were understandably distraught in the wake of the tragedies and there was a renewed discourse focusing on what some perceived to be a lacking in dedication to mental health on campus. A lot of attention was brought, especially, to the student counseling and consultation services (CCS) because of unbelievably long wait lists to receive help, which many attributed to there not being enough funding for the CCS.
Depression is something that has affected my life and the lives around me for several years and, largely because of that, mental health reform and treatment is something about which I have become passionate. When I was in middle school, my mom was diagnosed with clinical depression and was forced to leave her job because she was dealing with too much. A friend of mine in eighth grade had been forced to transfer from her previous school because of harsh bullying and dealt with suicidal thoughts. In high school, one of my best friends fought through multiple bouts of extreme depression, winding up hospitalized at one point. During my sophomore year, a classmate in my same graduation year died by suicide. If I were to total up all of my friends who have been hospitalized because of either attempted suicide or fear that they may attempt suicide, I would need to use more than one hand; to count up all those close to me who have dealt with depression in less severe but still very real ways, it would take several.
With this in mind, and with the knowledge that waiting lists for CCS were dismal and that some of my friends at Ohio State who had needed help had been unable to receive it because of that, I was angry. I was angry and I was frustrated at what I thought was a lack of care at the administrative level; it seemed to me that given the state of our financial situation, we could more than afford to properly fund adequate and sufficient mental health resources and we could certainly put more funding into them than we were. I reached out to the Columbus Dispatch in the hopes of writing an opinion piece and airing my frustrations and urging something be done. They quickly responded that, yes, they would like to publish my thoughts in a long letter to the editor.
After I finished my first draft, I wanted to share it with some people who worked in mental health care on campus to ensure that I had not made anything up and to ensure nothing I had written could be triggering to folks who have suffered or currently were suffering from depression and/or suicidal thoughts. After talking with them, I made a number of changes because the way I had written the letter was unintentionally and unnecessarily very combative and could be taken to imply that Ohio State did nothing in the way of mental health resources. While I still wished to air my grievances and make it clear that what I thought we were doing was not enough, I also did not want a student to stumble across it and assume that there was no where they could turn. After making the adjustments, I was very proud of how it turned out and it was soon published online and in print for the Columbus Dispatch.