Editor’s note: This week’s Readers’ Forum includes letters to the editor that discuss suicidal thoughts and depression. Please use discretion when reading the following letters.
Why I go to BYU
Today I was reminded why I go to BYU.
I woke up early this morning. I needed to make sure I had time to get to class in the Tanner, I wasn’t sure how my motorcycle would fare in the snow. I also wanted some extra time to print off my MComm project. After printing off my project, I took the elevator down two floors and started walking to class. Another student passed by and told me in a rushed way something had just happened in the atrium.
About the time I got to the second story balcony was when the paramedics arrived. I won’t describe the scene. I’ve been around death, I’ve been around blood, but this was something entirely different. I think it may be because of the setting. A campus building. A fellow student. The bird’s-eye view. The balconies towering above. The group of onlookers mounting. Even the big Christmas tree stood silently above her. Not knowing the how or why immediately empowered the terrible and natural curiosity that drives us in these events. It was a horrible, harrowing scene that I couldn’t stop thinking about all day. But I was far from alone.
Shortly after I saw the paramedics give the girl CPR and then roll her away on a stretcher, my MComm professor offered a prayer in the class.
Few times have I ever felt the spirit so strongly from a group of people. Every single heart in the classroom was in humble supplication to the Almighty. The prayer was collective. Professor Thomas’ words came out as if I had uttered them myself.
Next class period, in my Book of Mormon class, we discussed 4 Nephi. We focused on what made the Nephites so special at this time and the impact of a resurrected Christ.
A few hours later, my Information Systems professor stopped lecture, seemingly able to look each one of us in the eye, and told us that we were not simply numbers here at BYU. She was refreshingly honest about her own struggles with depression.
As if I hadn’t seen enough love from a variety of faculty, I stayed 15 minutes after my humanities class and discussed the blessings and difficulties of teaching at BYU with my professor. She reminded me again that to receive a valuable education, the student must first value education.
The support I received on campus was matched by the support I received off campus. When I got back to my apartment, I just started crying. My roommate just hugged me for a second, not saying a word. I received texts and calls from old roommates, FHE members and classmates. One of my sisters called me out of the blue, and we discussed her battle with postpartum depression. My other sister — who is 8 ½ months pregnant— called, and we discussed the excitement of pregnancy and new life. My girlfriend made me lunch and listened to me share my feelings from the day.
The point is that today I saw the true nature of this school that I love so much. Today I learned by study and by faith.
I know as well as any Provo has its difficulties. Just like anywhere else, you’ve got some of everything at BYU. I, however, do not go to BYU for other people. I go to BYU because it pushes me along in the path of discipleship. I go to BYU because days like today remind me of the tangible love around me. I go to BYU because the Lord’s hand is seen in every nook and cranny of campus if you only have the eyes to see it. Today, BYU reminded me of a poem by Rudyard Kipling:
Though all we made depart
The old Commandments stand-
“In patience keep your heart,
In strength lift up your hand.”
— Adam Smith
Be tender, be kind, be refined
Some years ago, this quote was spoken from the pulpit at General Conference. “The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined…”
Today, whether you are a man or a woman, I challenge you to change the wording to read as follows: “The world has enough people who are tough, I need to be tender. There are enough people who are coarse, I need to be kind. There are enough people who are rude, I need to be refined.”
The tragic suicide that took place in the Tanner Building this week was shocking, but un-benounced to the general public, it has happened before.
In 2010, the year I graduated from graduate school, after all of the pom and circumstance of April graduation, another desperate student jumped from the 4th-floor in the Tanner Building. A single security guard found the body. I’m not sure why that image is seared into my memory, but I’ll live the rest of my life wondering if on that happiest of days, something could have prevented it.
Which leads me to why I am pouring my heart out.
I am now an alumna living on the Eastern Seaboard. I heard about Monday’s news from a brother still living in Utah County. I was so shocked. Saddened. And in all honestly, relived my Tanner Building days and the shock of hearing about the 2010 suicide over and over in my mind in a matter of seconds. This time however, so many students were affected. I can’t imagine the devastation of being a first responder, or witnessing the situation. It is so tragic. However, the most shocking thing has been the tough, coarse and rude response I have read from thousands of miles away, most specifically directed at the Counseling Center at BYU.
After graduate school I worked as a Career Counselor in Career Services (CCC), and the talented and loving psychologists in 1500 WSC were my colleagues, and they became my friends. I remember hearing the statistics about waiting times which were brought up frequently. I remember hosting the annual retreat in April and seeing colleagues leave to answer the 24-hour hotline. I remember Jan Scharman and the CCC leadership pitching different, creative ideas on how to meet the needs of the ever-growing population. I remember they cared. A lot.
I have been disappointed in the responses that point fingers at the Counseling Center. Imagine the grief and heartache each of the counselors (one of whom is one of my very best friends) feels personally. Imagine the what ifs popping up in each of their heads as they face criticism with grace.
We all know resources are finite, and I am not suggesting BYU abandon their other programing, but for those of you who have been critical, what’s more important? The Counseling Center and more faculty positions or Football? Or the BYU Singers? Or the MBA program?
That’s not an easy question. And it is definitely more complicated than throwing complaints into the cybersphere.
I echo what I said above, “The world has enough people who are tough, I need to be tender. There are enough people who are coarse, I need to be kind. There are enough people who are rude, I need to be refined.”
Be tender. Be kind. Be refined. Each of those Counselors in the CCC is doing the very best job they can. And, they wish. they. could. do. more.
— M. Lawyer Davies
To my fellow student
You’re not alone. I too have felt those feelings of isolation and fear. I too have stood where you stood and wanted to jump. I don’t think I am better than you because you lost a battle in the war we constantly fight. I cry with you because I know it could have been me.
You’re not alone. I understand how the fear of life may outweigh any uncertainty death may bring. The fear that makes every waking moment too painful to bear, and most sleeping ones as well. The temptation to just give up and end it all.
But we are still in this war, those of us who have not yet given in to that temptation. We who understand far better than others why you passed on. We’ll cling to life for you. I’ll hold on with you in mind. I’ll fight my battles in your honor. Because I can’t fight for myself. But I can for you.
We are not the only ones with fear. The people around us may notice some of our struggles, but are too afraid to help. They are afraid of offending us, invading our privacy, or even being responsible for such a scary and heavy burden. They are paralyzed by this fear, they don’t know how to help, or even what is wrong. They don’t help, not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know how.
I love you even though I do not know your name. I morn your loss. I cry for your pain, for our pain. I wish I could have known you when you were still here. If we had know one another, and shared our pain, maybe the isolation would have been lessened. Maybe we could have been fellow soldiers. So, now I speak out. I speak the words I have never spoken in an effort to find the others who are still fighting: our suffering siblings. I want to end our silence.
— A friend
I didn’t know the victim of the suicide attempt in the Tanner Building. But I know it wasn’t an accident; it was preventable. I know because for two heartbreaking months of my freshman semester, I was her. Suicidally depressed.
This week, I watched with a sense of detached irony as people who ignored me at my weakest, expressed their agony at this missed opportunity to help our deceased student. One tragic opportunity was missed; there are countless more, unfortunately.
We should have been showing love for each other each day instead of texting it in group chats after the fact. We should have been asking people how they are and letting the answer be “not okay.” We should have been, should now be, inviting people to not be alone on Friday nights, should be letting the normally subdued be the center of attention instead of ourselves for once. We should all have been this victim’s friend and confidante.
The thing that shocked me most about Utah during my first semester was the number of people who would pretend to be nice, and yet dismiss me and forget everything about me later. Please don’t forget our fallen sister. Don’t waste the next opportunity. I know it seems like you can’t make a difference, but one person could have changed everything for me. You matter. Everyone does.