Student blog post directed at University criticizes mental health resources

Brown says the pressure to be “perfect” is overwhelming at Queen’s.

This is how Jess Brown, ArtSci ’17, began a March 3 post on her personal blog, titled “The Real Story of Mental/Chronic Illness as a Young Adult”.

In the post, Brown identifies as a person “with depression, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue” who always has felt like “an outsider, unable to participate in activities around campus due to illness and treated like I’m lazy and stupid by peers and profs.”

“Your ‘mental health staff’ I was sent to after a suicidal episode told me my dreams we’re too lofty and that I would never achieve them with my health conditions. Not something someone who just 12 hours earlier was considering taking her own life really needs to hear,” Brown wrote.

Brown wrote that the “pressure to be perfect” at Queen’s “is reflected in the high achieving student body and the stigmatized ideologies of the staff.”

“You’ve spent the last 3 years crushing my self image and my dreams and I am done putting up with it. Goodbye Queen’s. Try to do better.”

Brown elaborated on her experience at Queen’s in an email to The Journal on Tuesday. She explained specific instances when she was made to feel like an outsider by the Queen’s community, like when a friend told her she should “try harder” to wean herself off her anti-depressants, or when she struggled to keep up with the physical and mental demands of Frosh Week.

However, Brown wrote that her worst experience happened when she interacted with a University mental health counsellor following a visit to the emergency room to prevent her from engaging in self-harm.

“This person treated the appointment like an academic advising appointment with little sympathy. I was told maybe Queen’s was too much for me due to my illness and I should ‘try college,’” Brown wrote in the email.

“One of my major depressive issues is never feeling good enough… [so] I’m surprised I made it through the rest of that day.”

Brown also experienced disappointing treatment at Kingston General Hospital. One night during a panic attack, Brown called 911 and took an ambulance to the hospital, where after an hour of waiting, she was told she was “just overwhelmed” and could go home.

“I was living by myself at that point, and the doctor knew this, which just made the situation more ridiculous. Twice I’ve been turned away by ER doctors because I hadn’t drawn blood yet or hadn’t taken pills yet.”

Brown also faced difficulties with Queen’s Student Accessibility Services. When meeting with the service, Brown said she was asked what she wanted them to do to help with her disabilities. Brown then requested a note taker, and was told, “that wouldn’t work” for her disability.

Through her difficulties, Brown says that Queen’s mental health staff members need to improve communication with their patients and start with smaller suggestions, rather than telling students to drop out of school during their first meeting. 

“I think mental illness is still just starting to be understood. But the university is putting limits on what the mentally ill can do,” Brown wrote. 

“I would like to see people with mental illnesses being given ample access to services that can help them achieve their goals. In my opinion, everyone deserves the help they need to get through school.” 

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