84 forced hospitalizations in six years. 84 college students told they had to be admitted into a psychiatric hospital or face suspension.
I haven't written a lot recently, too bogged up with schoolwork and daily life. But 84 people. 15 people short of fielding W&M's entire football team.
I don't think I'll ever forget the day I was told to "strongly consider" our next route for saving me from my depression. It was during the lunch break once a week where I would leave class in a rush, jump into my car, drive to Princeton, meet with my psychiatrist, pick up my pre-ordered Playa Bowl, and then eat in the car as I rushed back to school before my next class noticed I had even stepped foot off-campus. Except for this week, they would notice my absence.
The very idea of a psychiatric hospital brings such an immense amount of stigma. Psychos go to a psychiatric hospital; crazy people who cannot control themselves, who see spirits, who talk to ghosts…those people go to psychiatric hospitals. A depressed high school girl, severe or not, does not go to psychiatric hospitals….unless I am not just a depressed high school girl. Am I crazy? Am I in control of myself…of my brain? What is going to happen to me? What is going on with me?
I had experienced haze before, but this was an entirely different haze. Before, it was a thick fog that overpowered everything; pure numbness. This, though, this was a numbness with the most excruciating pain. Here I was preaching to the masses about getting help for your mental health, and brighter days on the other side with unicorns and rainbows, but then here I also was about to get admitted into a psychiatric hospital. All of this from a statement said during ten seconds of the entire hour-long conversation: "we might want to start thinking about hospitalization". Am I really that far deep?
84 involuntary admissions to the psychiatric hospital. Jesus Christ, W&M.
One thing I have really made a cognizant effort to remember this year in working with the Innocence Club for the wrongfully convicted is to look through the numbers and statistics when referring to people. In this case, it is not just 84 people who were involuntarily forced to choose between suspension and a psychiatric hospital visit. It was 84 faces. It is way too easy nowadays with the vast amount of resources online to forget that the number of people in a research study, the number of people involved in a mass shooting, the number of people dying from COVID-19…they're really not just numbers. They are lives.
I don't think I have ever written a more all-over-the-place article yet. But it actually works perfectly in trying to replicate the haziness I felt when I was told to think about the psychiatric hospitalization route. Now imagine if I didn't have that choice. Imagine if Lawrenceville found out and told me, "go or be suspended".
That day, I didn't run straight back to class. I did not put on a smile and show the world I was okay. That day I walked into the dining hall, haze and all, I found my coach and advisor and I said, "I need you, now". And I sat and cried. Was I really crazy? Do I need to get hospitalized?
I only wish those 84 faces were able to do the same.
Do better W&M.
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