Editorial notebook

Mental health versus the bureaucracy of Rensselaer

I’d like to begin by saying that this notebook was the catalyst for my joining The Poly, and that this entry has been roughly a year in the making. I joined this staff because I wanted this campus to understand my experiences in the raw, visceral way that made them meaningful to me.

I sincerely apologize if this is upsetting to any of our readers, but for the sake of transparency I need to be blunt; during my freshman year at RPI, I was admitted to the psych ward at Samaritan Hospital after my Resident Assistant discovered that I had been contemplating suicide. Following a four day stay, I was allowed to finish one of my courses from home. Come the end of the semester, I was placed on leave of absence by the administration. It was inarguably one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and it hurts me to think that this is a situation that other students might have to go through.

Prior to being admitted, I had acknowledged that I was struggling in terms of mental health; I made attempts to reach out to the campus resources that are offered to students struggling with depression or anxiety. However, over the course of several weeks, I was met with the consistent failure of the online scheduling portal for the counseling center. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to make use of the counseling center that RPI champions as a resource for students in need. As I was leaving RPI for the semester, I was frequently asked how I had allowed my happiness and sanity to deteriorate to a point where I required hospitalization. As I was leaving, I was told in no uncertain terms that the administration had no record of the appointment portal ever going down.

Following my leave of absence, RPI made its conditions for my readmission abundantly clear: four to six months of counseling, in addition to a clearing from a therapist. These were terms that I had agreed to when I had left, as I had felt that months of therapy would be sufficient for me to have the ability to return. I spent months finding ways to reconstruct myself from the depression that had caused me to leave school, and I came out a stronger, healthier, and more self-aware person. When the time came to reapply for the fall semester, I was confident in my progress and received a glowing recommendation from the licensed psychologist with whom I had met several times a week. However, RPI responded to my efforts with a form letter. I had been denied readmission for the fall semester, without explanation or direction.

Through a bureaucratic nightmare that demanded many hours’ worth of phone calls, I was able to find the reasoning behind my rejection: campus psychologists had determined that I was not mentally capable of the stress associated with college education. These were the same psychologists that had been completely inaccessible to me when I needed them, and they still felt that their paper representation of me was worth more than the testimony of the licensed psychologist who had worked so hard alongside me. I was forced back to the drawing board, and it was only through the efforts of one particularly helpful administrator that I was able to point out misinformation within the counseling center’s system and return this fall.

I think it’s worth saying that administrators had claimed that they were on my side as I was leaving. In the eyes of the Institute, however, I was reduced from human to liability the minute that I stepped foot off campus. This is an institute that contributed to the decay of my mental health in a large way, and then made me jump through hoops to redeem myself once I was down. I am thankful to have come out of my struggle with a better head on my shoulders, but I refuse to say that the actions of the school have contributed to who I am in any positive way.

RPI has created an environment that is hugely stressful, and campus does not provide our students with the resources to cope with it in an effective way. It is toxic, and I want to have that toxicity in writing. I would like to thank everyone that has allowed me to improve over this last year, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the support I have received.