Opinion

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Now what?

My girlfriend knew Matthew and Christina. I didn’t, but she did. When I told my parents the news, my mom offered advice for taking care of her. “Don’t worry, Mom, I’ve handled this before.”

It’s tragic, but true. This is my sixth year being part of the MIT community. I’ve been close to more suicide than I care to recount. Over time, I’ve grown uncomfortably comfortable with the conversations that stem from suicides and mental health issues.

Inevitably, these conversation always turn to one direction: Now what? How can we prevent this in the future? How can we offer better support?

I think this is a great testament to our community — no matter how big the problem, or how insurmountable it seems, we are always looking for a solution.

To me, this is MIT’s greatest asset. We are a school filled with the most talented problem-solvers in the world. The sheer brilliance of our community, combined with our rich diversity, allows us to find the best solutions to the biggest problems. Even if we wanted to hire fancy corporate consultants to help us solve problems, we would probably just be hiring our own recent graduates.

Although science and engineering are our domains of expertise, we are perfectly capable of solving other types of problems. If you need evidence, look no further than the ongoing “It’s On Us” campaign. A conglomeration of 17 (seventeen!) independent groups got together to fight sexual misconduct at MIT. Their work has led to thousands of MIT community members signing a personal commitment to keep others safe from sexual assault. It’s truly incredible.

Suicide and mental health represent another big challenge for our community. Like sexual assault, I believe it’s a challenge best overcome through input and cooperation from the entire community. Everyone should be encouraged to join the conversation, and everyone should be given a chance to offer their opinion.

Now, more than ever, it’s important to recognize the benefits of openness and transparency. The last string of undergraduate deaths was in 2011–2012. MIT’s primary response was the creation of the RLAD role to enhance the existing support system in dormitories. Although the chancellor at the time suggested there was community involvement in that decision, the role was highly controversial and strongly opposed in a public letter signed by over 50 GRTs.

That said, MIT does have a history of addressing mental health issues with more openness. In 2000, MIT commissioned a “Mental Health Task Force” to evaluate the existing mental health support system. The committee produced a list of 17 concrete recommendations for improving mental health care at MIT. And they’re all completely public.

Over the coming weeks, I’m sure we will learn more about MIT’s plans to overcome this tragic time. I will certainly be pushing for openness in the process, and offering my own ideas for improving our support system, and I encourage everyone to join me. Mental health is far too important an issue to have your voice go unheard. Your ideas are valuable, and the entire community will benefit from your unique perspective.

Colin Sidoti is an alumnus of the Class of 2014 and a volunteer assistant crew coach.

7 Comments
1
Freedom almost 3 years ago

Quote: "Although science and engineering are our domains of expertise, we are perfectly capable of solving other types of problems. If you need evidence, look no further than the ongoing It's On Us campaign. A conglomeration of 17 (seventeen!) independent groups got together to fight sexual misconduct at MIT. Their work has led to thousands of MIT community members signing a personal commitment to keep others safe from sexual assault. Its truly incredible."

Bad evidence: It's On Us is a vapid propaganda campaign that has accomplished zilch, except petting the self esteem of the participants and moving the participants towards dangerous ways of thinking. I don't think the participants are generally bad people, but I do think the program was an immoral struggle session.

Quote: " Mental health is far too important an issue to have your voice go unheard. "

Bad assumption: Mental health is an important issue. To establish that, you need evidence beyond a string of anecdotes.

Quote: " Your ideas are valuable, and the entire community will benefit from your unique perspective. "

This is a very holy thing to say. Unfortunately infantile people (e.g. most college students nowadays) are generally stupid and their ideas are generally not valuable. Free speech is ending now anyway.

Quote: " a volunteer assistant crew coach."

Best part of the article. That's how you genuinely help mental illness: compete in sports and coach other people. This was established by philosophers 2000 years ago and is mostly ignored nowadays. In the past (Ancient Greece, middle ages, even the 1950s), suicide rates were much lower than now, and I think it's because society was less atomized.

2
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

1 (aka "Freedom")

You claim "It's on Us" is a "vapid" campaign that has yet to accomplish anything except "petting" self esteems and to move participants into "dangerous thinking." If you're going to make these ridiculous claims, please take your own advice/suggestion and provide some "evidence beyond antidotes."

3
Freedom almost 3 years ago

2-- Where to begin?

It's On Us is an ugly progressive movement. Already, that's evidence it's wrong, since most progressive movements are based on fashion rather than truth.

First, It's On Us is based on nonsense, such as the inflammatory, dangerous lie that there is a culture that somehow enables sexual assault (it should be a fireable offense to repeat that lie in the workplace, in my opinion). In reality, trustworthy statistics from the police show sexual assault is very rare and has been decreasing among key demographics. Now, from the perspective of It's On Us, the nonsense they advocate serves a useful purpose-- anyone can believe in the truth, but if you get a group of people to believe in nonsense, that's a great way to bond them together.

Second, polices that It's On Us advocate are either ineffective or tend to increase rather than decrease sexual assault. For instance, they encourage women to behave in risky ways (because doing otherwise would be "victim-blaming"); e.g. they say women should not have to face retribution for getting drunk and making mistakes. It's On Us people also tend to like multiculturalism, which the police has found results in a ton of documented rapes. It's On Us also wants to end due process, which impedes healthy relationships (since now women are encouraged to lie when making accusations, giving government power to disrupt relationships on zero evidence). It's On Us also advocates replacing scientific and religious training with required Women's Studies classes, which discourage critical thinking and traditional morality, and encourage poor decision-making and modernistic hook-up culture, which causes sexual assault and rapey behavior. It's On Us also censors honest debate about sexual assault that doesn't conform to their narrow, bigoted view (see the protests against Laura Kipnis as an example). All this is to be expected, because forming policies from falsehoods is like walking on a log in the water.

Let me remind you that the burden is on It's On Us to present solid evidence that they're a force for good. And they have not.

4
Alumnus almost 3 years ago

I'd like to propose an idea: what if MIT made mental health therapy/education compulsory, requiring a student to meet once a week individually with a dedicated counselor to just vent?

Most of the previous attempts to curb suicide have focused on awareness, easing access to mental health resources, or adding extra layers to the dormitory support system in an effort "to enhance our students well-being and sense of belonging" (Grimson on RLAD system, http://tech.mit.edu/V132/N27/rlad.html).

MIT is a conglomeration of niche communities. A community-based support system may work in one dorm but not in another, and a system that worked for one student may fail another. I have not known any of the students who have committed suicide over the past few years, but I have read their obituaries and received emails with short blurbs about their hobbies and passions and funeral arrangements time after time after time.

All of these people were different. Some were kind introverts, others were active members of social groups. Some sought mental health advice, others denied assistance.

A 2009 study by UT Austin suggested a comprehensive approach to addressing college suicides. An administration should push "intervening at all points along the suicidal continuum,

from prevention through early intervention, crisis treatment, and

relapse prevention."(https://www.nabita.org/documents/NewDataonNatureofSuicidalCrisis.pdf). What better way than by getting a chance to get to know each of its students?

Mental health will not help everyone - I'm sure some of us could throw the DSM stats right back at a therapist- and my proposal is far from perfect (Costs? Liability? Student opinion?), but I believe changing the community as a whole requires addressing the issue one student at a time. I, for one, would have appreciated an hour long chat once a week to clear my head and remind myself that there's a whole world out there beyond my struggles in physics (this is strictly speaking from my point of view and not intended to demean anyone's personal conflicts, everyone's struggles are different)

I hate that the frequency of suicides at MIT is 'a thing.' I hate that every time this happens, a bureaucratic process spits out recommendations that don't seem to change anything. I don't know if my proposal is the solution, but it's something different (or has it failed before? I haven't found info). If it helps save a life, then I'd like to think it's worth it.

5
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

#Freedom

"Quote: " Mental health is far too important an issue to have your voice go unheard. "

Bad assumption: Mental health is an important issue. To establish that, you need evidence beyond a string of anecdotes."

So is it the same for physical health? Do we need to privide evidence to establish that, with anecdotes? Seriously?

I wonder what you don't actually see as propaganda, or leftist dangerous thinking, or anything good that doesn't come out from your quotesn your opinions your point of views.

"First, It's On Us is based on nonsense, such as the inflammatory, dangerous lie that there is a culture that somehow enables sexual assault (it should be a fireable offense to repeat that lie in the workplace, in my opinion). In reality, trustworthy statistics from the police show sexual assault is very rare and has been decreasing among key demographics. "

Now that is cute and so naive: Because we all know all the victims of sexual assault go to the police! Take your head pull it out of wherever it is , far away from reality , and welcome back in the real world.

Now, sports, art, music, pets, talking, all those are already being used by professionals to prevent suicide attempts, more likely in groups that have people who already experiences suicide. Just do what you only know, google that and come back with some shady sources valuable only in your opinion because the person thinking that is respected.

Wait, the life of a human being is nothing in term of length compared to human history, so,is finding someone's views as good something fashionable too?

You are just waiting, doing nothing, for someone to share important matter(s) to happily bash that person.

You sound like a very very frustrated man.

And about the lie about sexual assault: Why don't you fight that for real and talk to MIT (oh please don't tell me they won't accept it it's propaganda consiracy blahblah and all kind of lame excuses)? When you deeply believe something is that bad it should be a motive to fire someone, you do something about it, not just jibber jabber about it on the net.

I would be curious to see anything coming from you that doesn't start with taking what others say to write: it's lame , it's stupid, it's childish or dangerous.

Have some imagination please, change your way of trying to get at MIT for God knows why reason(s). It looks like an 8 year-old answering back to the people who took away his candies.

Completely immature.

6
Freedom almost 3 years ago

5--

If I were evaluating you, I would start by putting a negative sign in front of your IQ.

7
Anonymous almost 3 years ago

-Freedom:

Well good thing you are not in a position to evaluate me.

-It's really indeed an 8 year-old retaliation. This is making you look ridiculous to a point you cannot imagine.

- You may do that, put a negative sign in fron of my IQ, but I should remind you maybe that a Normal curve tends to 0 on both ends, and never goes below 0. Are you really someone related to MIT and did you fraduate from high-school?

How someone who wants to put a negative sign in front of a number coming from a Gaussian curve , on the y axis can have the what it takes to evaluate anyone.

Stop daydreaming. Go get a degree, or at least don't say such ridiculous things.

I hope you see how childish your answer is, well, if you can see anything.