Photo from Volkan Olmez

Dear Northern Michigan University: Your Self-Destructive Policy Is Fucking Awful

Hey NMU,

I recently read about your policy on punishing students for discussing their struggles with suicidal ideation and I wanted to write and express how deeply disappointed I am in this decision, as well as how deeply worried I am for the students who find themselves struggling on your campus. This “self-destructive” policy as you’ve chosen to call it is not only counterproductive, it’s downright dangerous.

Allow me to explain.

According to the Jason Foundation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth. It’s a serious issue, and feelings of loneliness, abandonment, shame, guilt, and humiliation are among many signs that someone is at risk for committing suicide.

So when you implement this “self-destructive” policy that instills these feelings of guilt, humiliation, shame, abandonment and loneliness in those that are probably are already suffering from those exact ailments, you not only are adding insult to injury, you’re also failing to create a safe space where someone who is suffering feels they can seek help. You also fail to realize that those who think they couldn’t seek help in any setting are now being reinforced by this self-destructive policy to hide the warning signs. To squash the sadness. To be extra careful and sure to put on a happy face and pretend everything’s ok, even though they’re anything but. Sometimes, others see how low we are before we can. So, if you ask students to hide it, how can someone notice they need to be lent a loving hand?

Do you see the problem yet, Northern Michigan University? This policy further stigmatizes mental health struggles, as well as creates a greater barrier to seeking help. Because when you penalize and punish a student for seeking support from the people who care about them most during a time of utter emotional duress, how do you expect them to reach out to those who can help them professionally?

Short answer: You can’t.

Suicide is preventable, NMU, and you’re doing your students a grave disservice keeping the policy intact. Because to those who need to hear they’re OK the most, your message is loud and clear:

“You are not OK. You are a distraction. A liability. What you are feeling is worse for others more than it is you. You are being selfish by reaching out. Your problems are bad. You are bad. Keep it to yourself.”

I really hope you reconsider and dismantle this faulty, dangerous piece of school policy. You could be saving so many lives, NMU. You have a responsibility for these kids. Because these students aren’t just a number. They’re a daughter or a son. A best friend. A grand kid. A sibling. Do more for your students, NMU. Be better.

Sincerely, 
What the hell are you thinking?