In the annual report from the Center for Collegiate Mental Health in 2018, 35.8 percent of surveyed students contemplated committing suicide, and 10.3 percent of students attempted to commit suicide. The CCMH survey collected data from 152 schools and 179,964 students.
The University has a long history of student suicide. In 2017, University senior Michael Nickelotte Jr.’s body was found off Nicholson Drive. At that point, Nickelotte had been missing for over a week. His wounds were self-inflicted.
I could delve deeper into the University’s past with student suicide, but I trust the readers agree with me on at least this instance — one case of student suicide is enough to warrant preventative action by the University. Remembrance is best served by fixing the problems that students like Nickelotte face every day. Otherwise, the University fails to see its students as human, and what happened to Nickelotte becomes just another statistical occurrence.
The Student Health Center provides students with free mental health services, including group therapy, crisis intervention, sexual assault support services, therapy, psychiatry and more. But, as suicides keep happening on campus, questions arise about the programs’ effectiveness, or at least, their accessibility. In 2015, Emilie Hebert reported in The Reveille that other SEC schools had much more accessible mental health services.
It’s clear that other SEC schools hold their students’ mental health in a higher regard. For those who claim the state just doesn’t have the funds to expand the Mental Health Service, these services aren’t funded by the state. Rather, the University’s mental health services are primarily funded by student tuition, specifically the Student Health Fee. Even though the rest of Louisiana is going through its own mental health crisis, the University has the means to protect its students’ well-being.
In 2015, Mental Health America ranked Louisiana 47th in mental health care. “The state has a high prevalence of mental illness and scarce access to care,” Andrea Gallo said in The Advocate.
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal cut Louisiana’s mental health care substantially in an effort to fix Louisiana’s other myriad budget problems. While the effects of these mental health cuts have been recognized in the years since Jindal left office, it will take time to recuperate.
As an institution run by a state with such an abysmal mental health ranking, the University needs to step up and raise mental health awareness both for the student body and the citizens of Louisiana. Although mental health is an ongoing struggle and Louisiana’s budget isn’t always conducive to progressive legislation, the University has the ability to fix its own mental health problems. Since the University’s mental health services rely on student tuition rather than government funding, a slight raise in tuition for each student can boost the effectiveness of the University’s mental health programs.
Barring a raise in student tuition, University students can organize student-run mental health groups focusing on group therapy and awareness — a system that worked at several universities in California. With claims of rising suicide rates across the U.S., some are saying that the kids aren’t all right. In reality, the kids are just fine. It’s the institutions that need an overhaul.
Michael Frank is a 22-year-old political science and English senior from New Orleans, Louisiana.