Letters to the Professors of a Graduate Student With Depression


Dear Professor,

You don’t know, but I found out during summer semester that I have depression, the kind that has to be treated. You don’t know, but I’m terrified. I don’t recognize myself. The charade of still being a high-performing student is exhausting. I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I know I don’t remember the last time I felt rested or the last time I felt happy. When my clinical schedule was increased, I full out panicked. I keep crying all the time, hiding outside the building or in an office. Grad school is supposed to be tough, but not this tough.

From,
Me

Dear Professor,

I came in for advice about time management. It was the last thing I could think of doing, and I trusted you. Thank you for recognizing I was doing everything I could and that my schedule was really difficult. Thank you for listening. Thank you for asking why I was asking for help now and persisting until you got an answer. Thank you for not freaking out when I told you my diagnosis. Thank you for just listening and trying to understand. You respected my dignity, did not equate me with my illness, and offered your help. You called me strong and a survivor.

Thanks,<

A grateful student

Dear Professor.

I came to you for help. You increased my workload with no input from me. You promised you weren’t going to do that. You asked me if I was OK. I think you were surprised when I said, “No, actually I’m not.” Grad school is all about pretending you have it together. For once I gave you an honest answer. You equated my depression to being a little bit lonely. It’s so much more than that. You can’t see it, but I’m sick. I know you may have never experienced this before, but I needed a little compassion. Please don’t blame me for not managing my time well enough. You left me sobbing in your office.

From,
Me

Dear Professor,

I know you took me seriously and understood. Unfortunately politics, my need for some privacy, and department barriers prevented your efforts. Thanks for trying and caring.

Sincerely,
Me

Dear Professor,

Thank you for looking after me when I had suicidal thoughts. Thank you for being empathetic. Thank you for not losing respect for me.

Sincerely,
Me

Dear Professor,

Another professor advocated for a short fix to get me to the end. I appreciate that you allowed me that fix. Although, I am a bit confused by the business-like nature of our interaction. Are you uncomfortable? Do you not really want to give me this change? Do you not care? Also, please don’t question my readiness for internships. I am maintaining excellent grades despite the severity of my illness. Don’t require me to get a letter of clearance from my counselor. Trust my judgment. Trust my record of good work. Don’t ask if you can put that letter in my general file. It’s confidential, and frankly I don’t think you should need it.

From,
Me

Dear Me,

You made it through the semester. Getting out of this environment will help a little. You will keep making it. Day by day. There are no easy answers. But you are strong and you are a fighter.

Love,
Me

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo by julief514


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