If you talk to me, chances are I will bring up my hospitalization last December for five days at McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Belmont, Mass. Being in a psychiatric hospital was a wonderful experience for me, and it truly did save my life. I went into the hospital not worrying about how Wellesley would handle it. I was assured by my class dean that Wellesley would continue to support me once I left the hospital. However, it turned out that the opposite happened.
I would like to note that my professors were extremely supportive of me throughout the process of transitioning back to Wellesley after being released. They allowed me to take excused incompletes for their classes, giving me all of Winter Break to complete my finals. I would love to take this space to thank professors Paul Wink, Antonio Arraiza Rivera, Soo Hong and Christa Skow for their flexibility and encouragement. They checked in on me throughout my stay at the hospital, and they all met with me when I returned to ensure I was able to complete their finals. For them, I will forever be grateful.
However, the lack of support from the Stone Center, the on-campus mental health center providing access to counselors and psychiatrists, was astounding. When a student is hospitalized, a Stone Center employee is supposed to visit the hospital to check on the student to make sure they feel supported and that they are receiving the care they need. However, the Stone Center claimed that I was released too early for them to make a trip to visit me. Even though I was in the hospital for five days, they did not have any time in their schedule to make a trip to the hospital, even though they believe that doing so is important. It felt as if they were blaming me for not doing their job. I have heard from other students that have been hospitalized that they have had to stay in the hospital for an extra day because the Stone Center did not have any regular or emergency appointments available. When released, I had a single meeting with two Stone Center staff members. These staff members reactivated my OneCard, performed an extremely brief mental evaluation and sent me a list of psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners so that I could make myself an appointment in my time of crisis. That was the extent of their support. I heard from my dean a few times, but that communication was to make sure that I would be able to complete my excused incompletes.
I was lucky that my parents live relatively close to campus. I was able to spend five days after being released from the hospital recuperating at home and have my parents there to take care of me. I couldn’t imagine not being able to stay at home for that period of time. I know many other Wellesley students who were also hospitalized for mental health, and Wellesley strongly urged them to take a leave of absence. This simply is not feasible for students who cannot afford to attend Wellesley for an extra semester, or who cannot afford a plane ticket to go home in the middle of one. Plus, for some, taking a leave of absence and going home could be worse for their mental health. I am also lucky that my insurance allows me to attend weekly therapy sessions off campus. I used to go to the Stone Center until my therapist could not offer me more than monthly or biweekly appointments and ended up making me feel worse, overall. Some Wellesley students need more mental health support than the Stone Center can provide. Wellesley administration may not want to be responsible for students at risk, but ignoring the potentially harmful effects of forcing a student to spend money that they may not have or return home to a possibly toxic environment is negligent.
One of the reasons why I chose to attend Wellesley was because of their reputation as a safe haven for those with mental illness. I have struggled with anxiety and depression since high school and I felt comfortable thinking that my college would take care of me if I needed more mental health support. However, I was abhorred to discover that I felt scared to return to Wellesley out of fear of needing more support than I would receive.
I came to Wellesley hoping that I would find a second home where I would feel supported and feel comfortable knowing I would have quality mental health resources. However, Wellesley has become an almost hostile environment for me. I am afraid of relapsing and not being able to access the support I need. I am afraid of being forced to graduate later than this May. I am afraid of needing the Stone Center, not being able to fit into their busy schedule and being made to feel worse. Wellesley’s stress culture can be a heavy burden to carry everyday, but if Wellesley administration wants to claim that they support the needs of students with mental health issues, they need to be a more reliable and stronger resource, especially for those who are hospitalized.