U of T - Suicide
My experiences with the Mental Health services at the University of Toronto.
This was written and posted with almost no editing or revision. I only hope that it is coherent and helps at least one person.
In light of the recent suicide at the school (link attached at the end), I thought I would add to some of the accounts that students have already provided with CBC news. Let me start by saying, I have never been so angry and horrified at the University’s approach of handling anything. I was about to sit down and do my essay, but as soon as I read this I became completely overwhelmed with emotion and unable to focus on anything else.
A PERSON’S DEATH SHOULD NEVER GO UNNOTICED. I have been at the U of T since 2013 (I was absent from 2017-2018). I do not know how many students have committed suicide. The last report of mental health I remember seeing was a few years ago with a stabbing towards a professor. I don’t understand how the school has managed to cover up every other suicide that has occurred. Although I’m well aware that it is a problem, this is the first that I’ve heard of.
Being on the autism spectrum, I experience a lot of anxiety and struggle with emotional regulation and I have for my entire life. My symptoms really came to be unbearable during my first year of university back in 2013. I went to the mental health offices immediately. I was then scheduled for a phone call, it was essentially a consultation, so they could know what I was dealing with. The phone call happened within two weeks but obviously it wasn't of any help for my symptoms.
I don’t remember how long I was told the wait time was to see a therapist but… I was never called back, and if what I heard from other students was true, then it was OVER A YEAR. I was given information about group sessions for coping strategies, I went to one or two but I didn’t find them helpful so I stopped going.
After returning home once the year was over, I was less then 100 pounds, my acne came back, I sleeping maybe 4-5 hours a night, and it was over 2 months before I woke up one day feeling well rested and healthy. I went to my doctor and asked for medication for anxiety and to help me sleep. I initially vowed to never go back to U of T, of course I eventually changed my mind thinking that since I knew what I was getting into, things would be better.
I suppose I wasn’t entirely incorrect as my symptoms were significantly less debilitating in my second year. The medication and running 5 days a week kept things manageable but only temporarily.
The absolute peak of my symptoms happened in my third year. I wasn’t getting the grades I wanted and all of my past demons came to visit me. In November of 2016 I went to health services and they had completely changed their system (I can’t deny it has improved since 2013 but it’s still not enough, and how they ever LET the waiting list get as long as it did is beyond me). So I filled out some forms and I got another consultation but this time with a nurse in an office upstairs. There was then another appointment for with a psychiatrist for further screening. I was at that point told that group therapy was my best option for my situation and for wait times. I should note, by this point I was already having suicidal thoughts and I had said that directly to them. I don’t think group therapy should ever be pushed on someone but especially when they reach the point of suicidal thoughts.
Now let me emphasize how incredibly lucky I was to be called with the news that a social worker was available after about 4 weeks of waiting AFTER that second appointment. According to the CBC article, this is now about average time, I should mention again that when I was in my first year it was at least a year. I won’t deny that improvements have happened but the fact that group therapy was pushed when I was already having suicidal thoughts really stands out to me as horrifying. Moreover, of course a month is still too long; things can go south far too quickly.
I was also lucky that I connected immediately with the social worker I was assigned to. I have two other friends who eventually managed to access services and had very negative experiences, feeling worse after appointments. Not connecting with a therapist can happen but no one should ever feel worse after an appointment.
In the "about" section of my blog I mention how lucky I was to be able to access the services I needed to get myself back on track, I say this because it’s true. I will never take the fact that I have been one of the few people that needed help, and got it before it was too late. This being said, LUCK SHOULD NOT BE A FACTOR. The comment by health services in the CBC article about how what they do will never be enough was particularly disturbing to me. If they are THAT overwhelmed (I have little doubt that they are), then that should be enough of an indicator that these changes are not optional and have been needed for much longer then they acknowledge.
I can’t find words to describe the frustration I felt reading this article. I really, can’t I’ll leave things here for now.
R.I.P. everyone that have been lost to suicide at U of T.
R.I.P everyone lost to suicide in other post-secondary schools.
R.I.P. everyone that have been lost to suicide everywhere else in the world.
We will keep fighting. You have not gone unnoticed.