Suicidal Student Kicked Out Of Dorm Because He Might Negatively Impact Other Students

10 Feb

TW: talk of suicide

Imagine this: a student living in a university residence contacts his Residence Life don. He has fallen and injured himself, and there is blood everywhere. He is afraid he might die. He needs help.

Surely in this scenario the don would seek immediate assistance for the student. They would bring him to a clinic or perhaps a hospital. Once the student had recovered, they would welcome him back to residence – maybe even put up a banner or throw a little party.

Certainly the student would not be asked to leave the residence.

Yet recently when a similar situation happened at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, the student in question, Blake Robert, was told to pack his bags and get out.

The difference is that in the real-life version of this story, Robert wasn’t physically sick or injured. Instead, he was depressed and struggling with suicidal ideation. After reaching out to his Residence Life don, Robert was told that he could no longer remain in student housing because he was “a threat” to other students. He was told that if he were to die on campus, it would have a “negative impact on the psychological well-being of other students in residence.”

As he put it so succinctly in his article for Acadia’s student newspaper, Robert was basically being told to go die somewhere else.

Normally I don’t like to compare physical ailments with mental health issues, mostly because I feel like doing so often validates the exact position that it’s trying to deconstruct – namely, that we still live in a society that considers physical injuries or illnesses to somehow be more real and more worthy of time and attention than mental illness. I don’t want people to accept my mental health struggles because they’re pretending it’s the same as me having diabetes – I want folks to accept that I’m struggling with something that is scary and occasionally makes me want to die and is in fact nothing like diabetes. However, in this case I think examining an institution’s reaction to a mental health crisis versus how it would likely react to a different type of health crisis is fair; doing so shows the clear stigma and lack of understanding that still persist when it comes to mental illness.

The bald facts are that had Robert contacted his Residence Life don about a broken leg or the stomach flu or a bout of pneumonia, he would have been given prompt medical attention and no one would have breathed a word about him leaving student housing. Instead, the don spoke to him in person, set up an appointment for him with student counselling, and then two days later was part of a team of people telling Robert that he needed to leave because he wasn’t “safe” in residence. Apparently the best way to ensure someone’s safety is to remove them from their support network without any plan or offers of assistance. No wonder Robert felt as if he was being sent off campus to die; he was basically being told that the university wanted him to go to a place where he was no longer their problem.

At no point did anyone take Robert to the university health clinic or the hospital.

At no point was he given the chance to advocate for himself.

Instead, Robert was subjected to a disciplinary meeting where he was told that he might perhaps be allowed back into residence in September, if he was healthy enough. He was told that the Residence Life manager’s word was final; there was no chance for appeal. The Residence Life manager said to Robert that Residence Life dons are essentially like “landlords” and can’t be expected to care for students with mental health issues. Of course, this completely ignores the fact that an actual landlord wouldn’t be able to evict a tenant because of mental illness.

Says Robert:

“… Had I actually broken clearly expressed rules, or otherwise willingly threatened the safety of other students, I would have been afforded due process through Non-Academic Judicial, perhaps involving the RCMP. But suffering from a life-threatening mental illness is apparently seen as such an egregious crime and so dangerous that Student Services’ executive director, in charge of counselling, accessibility services, Residence Life, etc., found it acceptable that I was promptly ejected from campus without warning.

Just let that sink in – a student accused of committing a crime would likely have found themselves in a safer position than Robert did.

A student with pretty much any type of physical illness would have been offered some kind of care.

Instead, Robert was treated as if he was worse than a criminal.

Imagine being in a place that is so dark and frightening that you are sure the only way out is to die. Imagine being in that place and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to share how you feel with someone else. Now imagine that this person’s response is to tell you to get the hell out before you scare anyone. Imagine that, unlike Robert, you don’t have parents who live less than an hour away and can come pick you up. Where do you go? What do you do? And more to the point how is any of this supposed to alleviate what you’re feeling?

Sadly, Robert’s case is not uncommon – a similar story came out of Yale last year, and the psychiatrist Robert later saw at a local hospital said that universities often deal with suicidal students in this way. This is the lived reality for people living with mental illness – you’re sick, you’re so fucking sick that you might die, but don’t you dare tell anyone about it. Even the people who are supposed to help you are just as likely to hurt you.

I am so angry right now. I am angry and sad that this shit is still happening and huge institutions like universities are getting away with it.

This is why people don’t disclose mental illness. This is why people don’t ask for help. This is why people suffer and sometimes die without ever saying a word. This. This. This.

Where the hell are Bell Let’s Talk and “end the stigma” all that other feel-good bullshit when stuff like this happens?

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37 Responses to “Suicidal Student Kicked Out Of Dorm Because He Might Negatively Impact Other Students”

  1. Jessica February 10, 2015 at 3:45 am #

    Mental health disorders are extremely common, but sadly, so is ignorance…and apparently, compassion. 😦

    • Carol February 20, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

      I have a mental illness and know exactally how Robert feels. I know that friends, family and the so-called Mental Health services here in the Valley…well, there not really here at all!
      I am disgusted and outraged at Acadia for their treatment of Robert, but, sadly he is not alone.

  2. thejoshuagenerationministries February 10, 2015 at 3:49 am #

    That is horrible!!!

  3. DDL February 10, 2015 at 3:56 am #

    Thank you for writing this.

  4. Laiyla Lane February 10, 2015 at 4:54 am #

    Reblogged this on The Random Ramblings of Laiyla Lane and commented:
    Absolutely disgusting! It’s certainly a new low to discriminate against a person clearly in desperate need of help, oh and do they even know that suicidal thoughts aren’t contagious?
    Poor Robert, I hope he gets the help he needs to feel better.

  5. maggiemay February 10, 2015 at 4:54 am #

    I am FUMING! This poor boy needs help, love, and understanding! I’ve been where he is once. I hope he’s okay.

  6. giovanna February 10, 2015 at 4:54 am #

    Reblogged this on madness and commented:
    This happens ALL THE TIME, including at a campus near you…

  7. albedeklerk February 10, 2015 at 6:04 am #

    Good Day,i like Your blog,i think every body needs a second chance,every sick needs attention and put Your self in his Shoes,It must be a dissapointment,to be throw out of the universety,with out any warning,they should have warn him,so that he could understand what the situation was and why they doing It,thank you

  8. The Blonette February 10, 2015 at 7:29 am #

    Yes, yes, yes!!!
    I scared to inform my school about my problems for fear it will hurt me not help me……in what universe is that acceptable?! Yet here we are.

  9. Zoe February 10, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    This is why we can never shut up and have to keep the awareness. I can’t believe the world still runs on caveman times.

  10. Amanda Martin (writermummy) February 10, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    Speechless

  11. georgielizabeth February 10, 2015 at 10:32 am #

    That is horrendous! If this happened to someone with a physical disability there would be much more of an outrage.

  12. Mr. Militant Negro February 10, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    Reblogged this on The Militant Negro™.

  13. djgourdoux February 10, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

    Powerful – another example of the cold cruelty that is becoming more and more common these days – thank you for writing this

  14. Petal&Mortar February 10, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

    Is this even legal? It’s absolutely gobsmacking.

  15. Jackie Saulmon Ramirez February 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    Do people care nothing of other human beings?

  16. lovelylikebeestings February 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    Reblogged this on lovelylikebeestings and commented:
    Totally gross and terrifying. I generally expect better of Canada than the US when it comes to healthcare stuff, because though there are a number of drawbacks to their system, the fact remains that it’s better than what the US had (ACA has changed things somewhat, but I’m not prepared to analyze it just now) but this proves that the movement still has a long way to go to end the stigma and make it safe for people to disclose mental illnesses without fear of reprisal.

  17. dawnhiprose February 10, 2015 at 2:18 pm #

    Institutions of higher learning? Hmmmm I wonder…

  18. prideinmadness February 10, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    When I was 13 years old and my school found out that I was self-harming I was told I couldn’t come back until I saw a doctor. I acknowledge my parents might have used that to get my to the hospital but still, the threat of or actually kicking someone out of school because of severe emotional pain is disgusting. There is no denying that a suicide on campus would hurt the students left behind but for students to have such a blatant example of discrimination and lack of support is horrifying! Will other students keep quite now because they don’t want the same to happen to them? Most likely. I know I wouldn’t say anything if this happened at my campus.

  19. Gabrielle February 10, 2015 at 2:53 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Secret Me and commented:
    This post caught my attention and I believe it should get as much attention as possible. Really well written article, horrible subject. No one deserves to be treated like Robert was. This is the problem with society. We tell kids to go to an adult, tell someone, to not keep it to themselves, but then we go and pull crap like this. Disgusting. No one deserves to feel like how I’m sure Robert is feeling right now.

  20. saymber February 10, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    It seems we have a loooong way to go yet in this arena. I’ve been to the scary place and have lost three family members who couldn’t find their way out without the help of a gun or a noose. What you describe in this case and universities in general also happens in the institution I gave 16 years of my life to – the Unites States Military. Suicide as a result of untreated, undiagnosed, ignored mental “spoils of old men’s wars” are quite common for service men and women. Don’t stay mad for long, channel your emotions into manifesting the positive change you want to see.

  21. saymber February 10, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on As I see it and commented:
    If you have considered or lost someone to suicide you might want to take the time to read this from The Belle Jar. It’s disheartening that institutions of higher learning can be so poorly educated in the things that really matter.

  22. peggyricewi February 10, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    So hurtful! And thwarts the efforts to reduce stigma. Incredibly sad.

  23. E February 10, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    If this is actually legal I’m horrified. If it’s not legal…. I’m still horrified.

  24. sabrinakaye February 11, 2015 at 12:54 am #

    Reblogged this on Sabrina Kaye.

  25. Sarah February 11, 2015 at 6:56 pm #

    Thanks for writing this. It seems that things haven’t changed much in the last decade or so, when I thought we were making such strides. When i was in first year, I had finally opened up to some friends about my problems, and one of them had come into my room when i was harming myself, and got scared and told my Don in Residence. I was brought to Residence Life, and sat at a table with me on one side and 4-5 people on the other side, telling me that if I didn’t start taking medication for my issues and talking to someone about them, and agree to stop these behaviours, they would kick me out of residence. They made me an appointment at the clinic, and even made my Don come with me! it was appalling. I understand encouraging help, but doing it under threat is not the way to go. People don’t change until they are ready to. It was that year that I started devoting ALL my free time at school to fighting the stigma and raising education to the university body about mental health issues.
    I am so sorry this happened to you. Its a very slow battle we are fighting in this world.

  26. dennis February 16, 2015 at 1:06 am #

    Apparently, folk psychology – the innate sense of ‘rules’ that most people appear to have – says ‘denial cures all things’. (That is NOT true, but objective truth doesn’t exist in the unconscious…)

    It also seems to say ‘any flaw – any difficulty – no matter how serious, no matter how trivial – is a dire form of pollution… The carrier thereof must be expunged, for by this means they have shown themselves to be a traitor… Their evil is contagious…’

    I’ve only learned these – and many other vile *truths* (as in ‘truthy’…) in the last few years.

    If acting ***this*** way is what it means to be *normal*, then being a ‘soul-less shell of an accursed changeling’ – what those like me have been named – doesn’t look nearly so bad. I might ‘have no common sense’ AND ‘lack all forms of empathy’, but even I can tell that driving someone who feels *this* awful away ‘so as to preserve the sanctity of the in-group’ is about the worst thing one can do.

    *$4@!, Normies! Does it take an autistic person – the lowest of the low, or so you-plural have told me for five decades – to tell you what you *should* do? Does it take a *useless feeder* to teach you how to care?

    Oh, but I’m wrong. You DO know what you’re doing.

    You’re EVIL. To h&&l with your accursed cures!

  27. barinthus1 February 16, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    I am going to get killed for this…. so if this guy is going around talking about taking his life and being depresses, is it really the university’s responsibility to take care of him? Certainly the added pressure of university would not be any help to him, I doubt very much the university just kicked him out, I would suggest that they recommended that he gets the help that he needs, but that is not the university’s responsibility.

    • guessingatnormal February 19, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      You obviously didn’t read Blake Robert’s original piece, which was linked to in this blog post. If you had, you’d KNOW better than to say what you just did. I strongly suggest that you go read the piece (here’s the link so you don’t even need to go look for it: http://theath.ca/2015/02/go-die-somewhere-else/#comment-21127), and then come back here and tell us if you still agree with what you wrote.

      Have a nice day, and may you never have to go through anything like what Blake Robert was suggested to.

      • barinthus1 February 20, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

        yup… still agree with what I wrote. it is not the university’s responsibility.

  28. Anne-Marie February 17, 2015 at 8:36 am #

    I’m appalled by this, and very glad I had heard nothing like this, when I was in college, and suicidal. I went to Barnard, which is part of Columbia, but a world away, when it comes to student care. I’ll never forget the class dean saying my health and safety ought to come first, during a meeting I had set up to make sure I would be allowed to graduate on time, if I spent time in an inpatient program. Christ, Residential Life let my MOM into my dorm room for a whole weekend, so she could fly across the country, last minute, and visit me in the hospital. Which seems like the exact opposite reaction. I felt nothing but respect for my teachers, and the people who knew what I was going through felt SAFER, knowing that our school helped me, in every possible way (the university funded my twice-weekly therapy and monthly psychiatric appointments through a fellowship program for its graduate students).

    I am so angry, reading this, because I know there were students who heard about my experience and also heard the messages: IT WILL BE ALRIGHT and NO ONE SHAMED HER. Everyone in the building who knew why my mom was allowed to stay there, even if they only knew it was to make it easier to visit “the hospital,” got the message that ResLife (normally a huge PITA) would bend over backward to help a student in danger. That should be the standard. I have no idea how the rest of my schooling would have gone, or whether I would have graduated at all, if I hadn’t had a safe place to come home to, in the middle of campus.

  29. Jessica February 17, 2015 at 11:01 pm #

    Reblogged this on Lost in A Little Town and commented:
    This is so damn important as a person suffering with depression…and diabetes. I try to never use my diabetes as a crutch, even less with my depression, but it’s a scary void. A void I melted into just this weekend. And I was even luckier that my alma mater never tossed me away like a piece of trash. Just…read this. It’s very important.

  30. guessingatnormal February 19, 2015 at 10:07 pm #

    Reblogged this on Guessing at Normal and commented:
    Reblogging this to Guessing at Normal; as a person who has struggled with depression issues for most of my life and who has many family members with mental health issues, this really hit home for me.

  31. ssswords March 14, 2015 at 12:23 am #

    to everyone who is concerned: I have started an online petition on change.org to help Blake out, please consider signing it and sharing with your friends. Let’s try to generate some attention around this issue and help to end the stigma around mental illness, no matter how small our voice!

  32. ssswords March 14, 2015 at 12:24 am #

    to everyone who is concerned: I have started an online petition on change.org to help Blake out, please consider signing it and sharing with your friends. Let’s try to generate some attention around this issue and help to end the stigma around mental illness, no matter how small our voice!

    https://www.change.org/p/acadia-university-erica-mcgill-matthew-guy-apologize-for-evicting-a-suicidal-student

  33. Kate April 25, 2016 at 2:18 am #

    This happened to me too.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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