Discussions of mental health, mental illness, and suicide are often taboo topics in our society. But while we mourn the loss of Cote K. Laramie ’14, we must also confront the prescient issue of the mental well-being of all students on Harvard’s campus. An event as shocking as the suicide of a fellow student necessitates the immediate need for a more open discussion of the health of the many individuals struggling to deal with this tragedy. If any good is to come of this terrible news, it should lead to a continued frankness and attention to mental health at Harvard and the broad range of services ready for those who need them.
Many students at Harvard and other universities feel the burden of great pressure and resulting stress throughout the course of our semesters at school. Mental health challenges, however, are not always the product of habitual problems like exams, career plans, and the unique social environment of college. True enough, college-age students experience a unique stage of life in which they may be burdened with the expectation to do well academically and are shackled at times by the uncertainty of their futures. Of course, students may also face pressure from financial stresses or personal issues at home.
But not all cases of mental health problems, especially the most serious cases, are created by exogenous forces or temporary situation. Therefore, we should not only encourage a more open dialogue on the frequency of feeling down or anxious about one’s role as a college student; we must also discuss chronic mental health illnesses, like depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety.
Many people shy away from discussing or confronting the topic of mental illness. We frequently discuss depression and anxiety alone with more than a bit of reticence. By doing so, the Harvard community risks ignoring psychological disorders including mood, personality, and dissociative disorders. All of these include conditions that have the potential to completely devastate the mental well-being of the sufferer. At times when mental health arrives at the forefront of our collective focus, mental illness must not be left unnoticed.
It is of course normal to have difficulty telling others about our mental states. For this reason, Harvard students must work to break down the stigma of mental issues not only by speaking up ourselves but also by lending an ear, and learning to lend an ear better, to help those suffering from anxiety, distress, or disorders
No matter what distance one could go in search for an answer, most people could never fully comprehend why or come to terms with the fact that someone they knew decided to take his or her life. Though suicide is irreversible, it is preventable. Harvard has an array of resources that can help those who are currently suffering from any level of mental anguish, ranging from peer counseling services like Room 13 and Contact Peer Counseling, to Mental Health Services at University Health Services, to the Bureau of Study Council. We encourage all students to make use of these resources whenever they need them.
Everyone deserves mental well-being. No matter how big or small the issue, each member of the Harvard community should feel comfortable discussing and seeking help for any mental health issue they face. Every life is valuable and cherished, and we must work together to support everyone our community by openly discussing mental health and being ready to help those who need us most.