Letter to the Editor: Northwestern ‘failing’ to provide support for struggling students

Kevin Mathew

“The loss of one of our own is always sorrowful, and we must stand with each other in this time of mourning.” — Associated Student Government president Ani Ajith and executive vice president Alex Van Atta

Dmitri Teplov was a student in the Northwestern University class of 2015. He was a New Yorker, a Murphy Institute Scholar and lived in the most Plexcellent dorm on campus. And he was a person.

With each death this year, I have watched our campus slip into selfish sorrow that does not truly confront the fact that we let a fellow student die on our watch. When Harsha died, our campus was shocked. It was unprecedented, and many were broken. When Alyssa died, the campus united. We learned how to overcome our sorrow and move on. And now that Dmitri has died, we must repair our campus and come to terms with our sorrow, or so we are told. I have watched unfold in these past few days a culture that does not invoke progress and that does not seek solutions. We are concerned with how we feel, with how terrible it is that we must endure a third student dying. Meanwhile, Northwestern implores us that we must come together as a community. If we feel sorrow for Dmitri, we must seek help at Counseling and Psychological Services, a darkly comedic joke as CAPS continues to give slipshod counseling service to the mentally unwell at Northwestern.

I went to CAPS at the beginning of this Spring Quarter. I told them I suffered severe depression and nearly daily repressed suicidal thoughts, and I was just taken off the wait list Monday. I am lucky in that I have medication from home, a strong support system and experience with this illness. I have gotten help from my family, friends and girlfriend, and I have methods from my past to deal with my issues, and I have been actually doing really great during this waiting period. Not all Wildcats, however, are that lucky; not everyone has a support system or a way to get treatment beyond CAPS. Not all Wildcats will be able to recover from an illness when CAPS simply does not have the budget or the resources to treat them. When our counseling service is as overburdened as it is, it must either pawn students off to Evanston psychologists at every avenue, or, if students endure the waiting list, rush them through therapy. A student who can barely get out of bed or has used up all his courage seeking initial treatment will not be able to go into town every session, and a pressurized environment to fix you and make room for the next student will never allow healing to occur.

The fact is these suicides are tragic and indicative of a campus-wide problem that does not create many visible symptoms. So many students suffer daily from mental illness and do not get the help they need. They know the difficult reputation of our counseling service and decide that there is no point in pursuing that option. I sincerely believe that funding is the answer. A counseling service that can attend to all mental illnesses Wildcats deal with daily may sound like a pipe dream, but to pursue anything less is just waiting for the next death to occur. A similar wait list to treat traditional medical illnesses of the body would not be tolerated. We cannot pat ourselves on the back because we feel bad about our fellow student. This is not a point for our campus to rally behind. This is a tragedy. This is a life that has been snuffed short. This is broken friendships and a broken family. To undermine his death as simply an event that affects us is nothing but selfish love. We have been failing both as a university and as classmates to offer a real support system to students in need. This cannot happen again. Not on our watch.

Kevin Mathew, Weinberg sophomore