Unfortunately Cornell is not the only “suicide school”

via University Diaries, who reports on Yale undergraduate’s  suicide-by-Empire State Building yesterday, and like me was upset by the irresponsible headline of an otherwise useful article about college mental health services in the Huffington Post.  The latter says:

“What more can be done to save student lives?

To answer this question we must first recognize that our population of at-risk college students is larger than in previous decades, but not because we, as a nation, have a growing number of depressed adolescents. The fact is that improvements in the identification, diagnosis, and treatment of psychiatric disorders–coupled with more effective medications and new forms of psychotherapy, specifically cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)–have enabled high school students with successfully treated psychiatric disorders to apply for and attend American colleges.”

The article then goes on to observe that students hide their psychiatric history during the application process (who wouldn’t?) and continue to do so when they arrive on campus because they want to make a “fresh start.”  The best piece of advice from the article:

Mental health services and classroom accommodations are a right, not a privilege. Your child is entitled to care, no matter how simple or common his condition. The school is not doing you a favor: they are required to provide to students with psychiatric disorders the appropriate services and accommodations in the same way they’re required to provide a ramp for students in wheelchairs.”

But what do you do if the student is reluctant to disclose the need for accommodation? We faculty were just sent a copy of a recent article by Allan L. Schackelford on the needs of student veterans with disabilities.  He writes that students with invisible disabilities — e.g. traumatic brain injury, hearing loss or impairment, and especially PTSD and other psychological issues, are often reluctant to self-identify these disabilities.  He observes that this failure to self-identify is “largely the result of the cultural norms” of the military, where “acknowledging, discussing, or reporting a personal problem or vulnerability would most likely prompt a negative reaction from superiors, as well as peers in their unit.”

I wouldn’t doubt that student veterans encounter the same negative response from some faculty who grumble about students taking advantage of a diagnosis.  It doesn’t help that the current dust-up over the DSM-5 has some folks outside psychiatry wondering about the scientific legitimacy of the field and even the mental health of its practitioners.

1 thought on “Unfortunately Cornell is not the only “suicide school”

  1. Regarding PTSD, one of the symptoms is avoidance. Of course you don’t want to tell anyone about it. First, it means you’ve been broken in some way. Next, no matter how kind the other person is about it, it brings up things you don’t want to think about and feelings you don’t want to feel. It takes a long time and a lot of trust–or risk–to tell someone. Then, even if you do, a lot of people still don’t understand and think you should just “snap out of it” or tell you that they’ve been through things in their lives and they’re still functioning. It ruins your job, your reputation, your friendships, your GPA. It ruins everything. People that don’t understand think you’re lazy or weird or irresponsible or just “crazy,” and if you feel like they’re feeling that way about you, why would you want to bother explaining the truth, especially when, a lot of times, explaining the truth just makes people try to tell you they’ve been through things too, but they’re functioning? So, it complicates everything. Then, it gets even more complicated if PTSD is from abuse, because then you can’t exactly tell your family and try to get support there, can you? If you and your classmates drive past the Institute of Living and they make a remark about the “crazyhouse,” you’re not really very likely to tell them about your own serious mental illness, now are you?

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