Student Issued Problematic 'Wellness Agreement' After Disclosing Suicidal Thoughts
A student in Canada has spoken up about signing what his university calls a “wellness agreement” while seeking help for suicidal thoughts last October.
Brody Stuart-Verner, a student at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, went to his university’s Residential Life Office for support.
“The residence life manager promptly put the pen and the piece of paper in front of me and I was given very little clarification,” Stuart-Verner said in an interview on the CBC Radio show “As It Happens.” “There were just a few things that just popped out at me that didn’t sound completely right but again, at that time, I was in such a fragile state that I thought that I had to sign it.”
MSVU ‘very sorry’ student felt isolated because of wellness agreement: Mount Saint Vincent University is prom… https://t.co/XrMQ1vgfiu
— Disaster Emergency (@derrtintl) May 18, 2016
The agreement, which Stuart-Verner shared with CBC Radio, states he must call a helpline in times of crisis, see regular counseling and that he “will not discuss or engage in conversations with residence students regarding personal issues, namely the student’s self-destructive thoughts.”
The contents of the agreement must also remain confidential. “Should you break the agreement,” the document reads, “you understand that you will have to vacate your room in residence and your lease will be terminated.”
“The way I understand that statement is that I can’t talk to any of my friends on campus about how I’m feeling,” Stuart-Verner told “As It Happens.” “It really did lead to a sense of embarrassment and I felt ashamed.”
After Stuart-Verner went public with the agreement, Mount Saint Vincent University responded on Facebook.
The full post reads:
A message from Paula Barry, AVP, Student Experience:
I was saddened to see the Global story broadcast last evening.
This situation is not in keeping with the Mount’s stance on mental illness. We are committed to the health and wellbeing of all of our students and we work very hard to ensure they are supported. That is why this situation is especially upsetting.
The intent of all of the Mount’s residence life policies is to ensure the support and safety of all of our students. As clarity, wellness agreements are plans put in place, in collaboration with our Student Health Services and our Counselling Team, to support (not isolate) residence students in rare crisis circumstances only. In the past year, the language in question was included in one of only two plans.
There are many supports available to students facing challenges. Peer supports, including trained mental health responders, residence assistants and dons, are an important part of that community of regular support. This group is always available to our students.
We don’t want any other student to feel the way Brody did. And we’re committed to continually improving. We are consulting with our Students’ Union and will ensure the continued input of mental health professionals as we work to review and modify the agreement.
According to Active Minds, more than half of college students have had suicidal thoughts, and one in 10 students seriously consider attempting suicide. An estimated 67 percent of college students tell a friend they are feeling suicidal before telling anyone else.
Stuart-Verner says he’s hoping the school will change its policy.
Paula Barry, Associate Vice-President Student Experience at Mount Saint Vincent University, told The Mighty, “On behalf of the Mount, I am sincerely sorry for what happened to Brody. I spoke with our Students’ Union office yesterday morning to initiate a review of the wellness agreement. This review will include our students as well as mental health professionals and will focus on ensuring that, in future, no student feels the way Brody did.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.
The Crisis Text Line is looking for volunteers! If you’re interesting in becoming a Crisis Counselor, you can learn more information here.