Mental health crisis at UW: An open letter to the university


Dear University of Waterloo,

I do not think I am out of line when I say that almost every one of your students is struggling with their mental health. A quick scroll through the “r/uwaterloo” subreddit proves my point. There are countless threads of depressed students seeking advice from peers on how to stay alive. Mental health is a Titanic-sized boat that has sunk to the bottom of your to-do list. 

Just this week, I heard through the grapevine that another student died by suicide, and it’s another death that won’t be publicly mentioned. 

In my first year, I witnessed someone’s unsuccessful attempt to jump off a building on Lester Street. This past spring, my friend died, and their last week of life was spent dealing with the debilitating stress and pressure of academia. It is heartbreaking and infuriating that we are made to feel like our only choice is to end our lives because our entire worth is reduced to a price and grade. 

We have to wake up every day and choose to sacrifice our time, money and mental well-being to please an institution that only provides YouTube videos with titles such as “What is self-care?” followed by a link to a crisis line. This is not to say that crisis lines aren’t helpful, but copying and pasting links and phone numbers to a website doesn’t give the impression you actually hear your students’ cries for help.

Of course UW has all these great crisis lines, counselors and emergency aid, but the problem arises when we take a closer look at their priorities. Currently, there is a month-long waitlist to see a counselor, and you only get six free sessions before they send you off with a thumbs up and ask that you seek mental health help elsewhere. Student suicide is swept under your rug of selfishness while you boast about tuition being poured into the PAC gym. It is a slap in the face because I know you have more than enough money to invest in better mental health support. 

If you valued your students, you would do more. But what is a handful of lives lost if there are 2,183 new ones arriving next year? We are just a number to you — a statistic to be included in your annual reports. 

If you aren’t looking out for your students, and the students are not given time to look after themselves, who will fight for us? Who will remind us that we are worth more than our degrees? You have the power to make changes, yet you turn a blind eye and bathe in student money. You take and take until we are nothing but empty shells that you place a grad cap on and hand a piece of paper to as a reward for “all our hard work.”

I do not expect anything to come of this letter because this is just the sad reality of the institutionalized education system. Call me what you want for not appreciating the “luxury” of post-secondary education, but this is inhumane.

So, dear University of Waterloo, tell me, have I not given enough of myself to you, or do you insist on taking my life too?

Yours truly,

A fed-up undergrad tired of losing my peers, begging you to do more