Opinion: USC gives mixed messages when it comes to mental health

College students are not OK. 

Dr. Gregg Henriques from Psychology Today reports, “evidence suggests that this group has greater levels of stress and psychopathology than any time in the nation’s history,” and while our university promotes Stigma Free USC, its actions send a different message.

This past week brought a lot of tragedy to campus, but some tragedies were not met with as much sympathy as Samantha Josephson's was.

When the news of Josephson was released, USC tweeted a statement that read, “This week, our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of a member of the Carolina family.” The tweet also included a quote from President Pastides’ official letter that said, “mental health is our highest priority, and we will continue to direct resources towards mental health support and care.”

Suicides at USC are swept under the rug, however, usually in the form of a “sorry this happened” tweet with a link to USC’s mental health services home page and a suicide hotline number.

“Dodie garage closed due to apparent death by suicide. Avoid the area. Counseling center available to those seeking assistance,” Carolina Alert tweeted on March 25. This, of course, was accompanied by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number.

After that, nothing. USC tweeted nothing in regards to the suicide, and there was little talk about it around campus other than the occasional casual mention. There was no press coverage. There was no collective reaction.

It seems counterproductive that the university preaches about destigmatizing mental health while inadvertently stigmatizing depression and suicide. By not speaking out about the suicides that have happened on this campus, the university is telling students that it is not OK to talk about their depression.

One reason people do not report about suicide is the fear that if one is mentioned, others will occur. But in the long run, it would be better to speak up about it now instead of waiting for the next case to come up. 

While it is valid that USC acknowledged the impact that the loss of Sami Josephson has on this campus, it feels like the university is putting lives in a hierarchy that silences people’s pain, even after death.

Just because there is not a name associated with the loss of a peer doesn’t mean they are not worth a candlelight vigil, a newspaper's front page, a letter from Pastides or a meaningful policy change. At most, students who are lost to suicide become a quick statistic during Stigma Free USC week.

This past week has made it obvious that the university needs to change the way they respond to students deaths. 

No innocent person's life is worth more than another. 


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