This submission was originally published last March, but due to a virus that infected many of the files from the Opinion Section, The Beacon lost a majority of the submissions and editorials from the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 semesters. We apologize for the inconvenience. We are trying to repost those files that were lost, but it is a long, tedious process. We appreciate your patience.
Joe Shorma and Jesse Dunn |
On Friday March 6 at 3 a.m. Michael Eberitzch II drove a ZipCar into oncoming traffic.
This was not an accident. This was a suicide.
Michael preceded his suicide with a lengthy goodbye, which he posted to Facebook. Given the complexity of the letter it was clear that this was not done on a whim. Instead, it is was a calculated and intentional suicide, partly fueled by alcohol, but ultimately driven by his ongoing struggle with depression and general dissatisfaction with his life.
In the wake of his death the University President, Fr. Mark Poorman, notified the UP community through email that Mike “passed away earlier today in an automobile accident.”
A few days later Father Poorman used the same language as he invited the University community to Mike’s memorial service. At that very service, Father Mark DeMott said that, “We will never know exactly what happened in the middle of the night on Highway 26.”
The two of us have been confused and frustrated by the school’s response to Mike’s death. In what could have been a perfect opportunity to have an open dialogue about the risks and consequences of depression, our University has opted to sweep it under the rug.
We acknowledge that the legality surrounding the situation may have made it difficult for UP to reveal Mike’s issue of depression and subsequent suicide. But, this does not prevent them from creating a program, giving a lecture, or making a statement about depression and suicide.
By not doing that, the stigma about mental illness continues, and an environment of suffering silently is maintained.
In Mike’s letter he shares that: “I have continuously denied having a problem with depression. I acknowledge that addressing this issue could have prevented what I am about to do.” Do we need any clearer evidence that tackling the issue of depression can save lives?
According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, suicide is the leading cause of death among college and university students in the United States. In a recent Beacon article, it acknowledges the growing number of freshmen seeking mental health help has dramatically increased to nearly 10 percent, a three percent increase from five years ago.
The problem of depression is one that requires proactivity, and the University does offer some resources in an effort to mitigate the problem. One avenue is the Early Alert Program—a tool that allows people in the UP community to “flag” students that they believe are emotionally, mentally, personally, or physically at risk and in need of support.
In addition, both the Health Center and the Sheppard Freshmen Resource Center provides students with informal and formal counseling and support. However, lack of availability has been a large concern with the University’s health center, as is commonplace nationwide.
We strongly believe that more steps can and should be taken by UP to address this issue. With all the success seen with Green Dot, why not have something similar for depression and other mental illnesses?
It could consist of awareness campaigns, educational seminars, training for both how to recognize mental illness and what to do once someone thinks they may be afflicted. Most importantly, it could create a network for people dealing with similar problems. So that their darkest hours aren’t made darker by feeling totally alone.
Our goal is not to blast the University for not caring about the wellbeing of their students. We have spoken with multiple pastoral and administrative members of the community, including Fr. Mark Poorman, Fr. Mark DeMott and Br. Thomas Giumenta.
Each has shown an openness and willingness to hear our opinions and suggestions. They have met us with compassion and shown no bounds in their love for their community. We believe that they are representative for the community at large.
It is hard for us to accept the decisions made by the University. It never feels right to ignore mental illness. But there can be no question that we all share the same wish for our community: To keep all members safe and happy.
There is a lesson to be learned in all of this.
In Mike’s parting words to the world he revealed: “I give up. Not because I am weak, but because I am sick.” Well, maybe we can improve our treatment, so tragedies like this don’t happen in the future.
As we say goodbye to Mike, there is one thing that we know for certain: We need to talk.
Joe Shorma is a senior sociology major and Jesse Dunn is a junior psychology major. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com