The news of a University of Toronto student's death by suicide has sparked a heated debate among students regarding the university's involvement (or lack thereof) in protecting students' mental health and wellbeing. Yesterday, news circulated that the University of Toronto lost another student to suicide on campus. This incident is the third on-campus suicide in the past academic year. Students became outraged when the university failed to publicly acknowledge the student's death.
In response, hundreds of students silently protested outside the President's office, demanding an increase in the allocation of resources to combat the growing mental health epidemic that plagues the university's three GTA campuses.
.@UofT if you don’t acknowledge #mentalillness #suicide you will never get to the core of this health issue Suicide is the result of many factors including #stigma I urge the leadership on campus to end the silence + support your #students with compassion https://t.co/wVMSFBhxKg— Lynn Keane (@keane_lynn) March 19, 2019
UofT pretending like nothing happened after third suicide in a year— Furazz (@frazzzal) March 19, 2019
@UofT needs to stop being glorified for its top academic rankings and start being publicly shamed for its poor mental health services and support for students. Three deaths on campus by suicide in 12 months is three too many #mentalhealth #UofT— Madison Danford (@maddydanford) March 19, 2019
TW Suicide:— erika (@erikayakii) March 19, 2019
Last year at #UofT not a single day went by where I didn’t think about killing myself, and the only reason I didn’t end up doing it was because I couldn’t decide on a method. I tried to get help and I couldn’t.
Thank you for saying this. Been waiting all day for @UofT to admit to what happened, was floored by the callous response & silence. After the *second* suicide in that building within the last six months,... exactly what are they waiting for before making mental health a priority? https://t.co/4sA8IHuqz3— Deb Raji (@rajiinio) March 19, 2019
The protest - which started at 2:00 PM on Monday at King's College Circle - consisted of countless students holding signs that stated, "This crisis will never be solved without our voice" and "Silence can still be heard."
Later in the afternoon, the students migrated inside the building and sat in silence inside the hallway where the President's office is located.
Kailyn Henderson, an engineering student at U of T, told CTV News, "There were two suicides in less than twelve months in the same place and nothing has changed. I think that something definitely needs to change."
Silent student protest moves inside Simcoe Hall at UofT. Mental health issues being highlighted by the students. PC Lucinda pic.twitter.com/ByQexYQEtt— Bill J (@NeuroscienceUT) March 18, 2019
Had to leave early from the U of T protest, but I just want to say how amazing it is to see a student body come together to make a difference and improve the lives of the U of T community. @UofT I hope this makes the Administration improve the mental health services...— Anisa (@AnisaBhatti3) March 19, 2019
Heartbroken for the @UofT students holding a protest right now because the university is not taking mental health care seriously.— Sage Franch 💻💋 (@theTrendyTechie) March 18, 2019
3 on-campus suicides this school year...this is a PATTERN. Universities must invest in protecting the people in their care.https://t.co/0GfDrAjOzd
Students continue to criticize the University of Toronto for doing too little in addressing mental health. Not only are students demanding an increased number of resources and counsellors, but they also complain that the long waits to speak with a mental health professional over the phone or at a physical appointment could be harmful to those who need the help most.
A computer science student named Anam Alvi told CTV News that she was on campus when she became aware that someone had died by suicide on Sunday. "It’s hard to think that someone in our community was suffering so much, right beside us," Alvi told reporters, "Acknowledge what's happening with the students and take action on it. I want them to provide better resources for students."
However, according to Janine Robb, the Executive Director of Health and Wellness at the University of Toronto, resources are supposedly available for those who need them. "I think we have to encourage students to ask for help, ask for help often and if something’s changing while you’re waiting, call us back. We’re nimble, we’re flexible, we are not wanting anyone to suffer."
I'm in my last year as a teaching assistant at @UofT. My class has been affected by a suicide death of a classmate the past TWO YEARS IN A ROW. I will write an open exit letter to faculty admin in which I outline the ways I believe the institution is failing their students ❤️— Meghan Wright (@meghaneewright) March 19, 2019
am I surprised with uoft lack of anything regarding the suicide this weekend? nope not at all this school is steeped in this culture of regiour to a point where students consistently have to put their health second to their education— faʀeha (@free_ha) March 19, 2019
An entire educational institution that cannot say the word suicide in the public sphere. How is this possible? I am glad I don’t over identify with my employer. You would think UofT would want to demonstrate the cutting edge research on suicide by having a spokesperson speak it.— BlackLikeWho (@blacklikewho) March 19, 2019
Anyone suffering from mental illness or suicidal thoughts should reach out to one of Ontario’s crisis or distress centres. The phone number for the Toronto Distress Centre is 416-408-4357.