Goodman: ‘Stay open’ to benefit your mental health

Goodman: Stay open to benefit your mental health

Meredith Goodman, Columnist

Not even a week has passed since the death of a Northwestern student, and there have already been so many reactions: Students have discussed the administration’s role in mental health, criticized the understaffing of Counseling and Psychological Services and reflected on the death of two other students this year.

I still can’t get a grip on my own reaction, one that continued through the next day after hearing the news. I am filled with sadness for Dmitri and his family, but also frustration at the same situation that is repeatedly occurring. Part of me feels that I should do something to prevent future suicides from occurring on campus, but the other part feels that one Northwestern student cannot make an impact.

My varied reactions mirror an episode of the popular Canadian teen drama “Degrassi” that I viewed this past week. In this episode, a main character committed suicide, and some students on “Degrassi” were puzzled about how to react. Some were angry, others were sad, and some, like me, were just plain confused.

The most relevant part of this episode was a voiceover from the school psychologist advising students on how to react to the suicide. “There is no way to respond to suicide,” it begins. “But no matter how you feel, the best thing you can do is stay open. Talk to your parents, your teachers, your friends, and more importantly, listen to what others have to say.”

I couldn’t agree more with this advice. I think despite your reaction to Dmitri’s death, the most important thing we can do as Wildcats is to stay open, talk to each other and listen.

Earlier this week, a friend on Facebook proposed students can help our fellow Wildcats by simply asking, “How are you?” and being prepared for a multitude of answers. I admit that though I ask other students — typically my sorority sisters and my friends — how they are, I am really only prepared for the typical answer: “Good. How are you?” Likewise, when I have a rough day, I sometimes like to keep to myself and rant later on the phone or online to some friends or my mom.

I should pledge to be open to hearing people talk about bad days, problems with their families or classes and disappointments. It is amazing how much better you can feel when you know someone can sympathize with you when you are hitting a rough patch. Likewise, when I am having a problem that I need to get off my chest, I should not be afraid to open up to other Northwestern students.

But there is also a need to beef up mental health resources on campus for the times when I can listen to my peers but not advise them. There have been instances where students have confided in me serious personal problems, but I just did not have the personal experience or psychological wisdom to give them the best advice. In these cases, I would like to be able to refer my fellow students to CAPS, a peer-listening service at Northwestern or whatever professional organization would help them the most.

Even so, simply taking the time and effort to listen to students can do a lot of good for the health of the Northwestern community as a whole. If we as students can “stay open” for ourselves and for each other, we can enhance our time during these short four years together.

Meredith Goodman is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this letter, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]