Ming DeMers/Sun Contributor

A view from above of students studying at Duffield Hall, March 17, 2022.

March 24, 2022

Stanford Student Suicide Spurs Widespread Discussion Surrounding Mental Health

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Katie Meyer ’22 was the team captain and star goalkeeper for Stanford University’s women’s soccer team. She was an international relations major on the Dean’s List. On March 1, Meyer spoke with her parents on FaceTime, presenting “happy and upbeat.” A few hours after that call, Meyer was found dead in her dorm, having taken her own life. 

Many attribute the mental health struggle among college students to an expectation of perfection forced upon them by campus culture. Gina Meyer, Meyer’s mother, said, “There’s so much pressure I think on athletes, especially at that high level, trying to balance academics in a highly competitive environment. And there is anxiety and there is stress to be perfect, to be the best, to be number one.”

This tragedy has opened up a national conversation about mental health, specifically among college students. Suicide is the main cause of death among college students and Cornell’s recent history presents no exception to this statistic. In 2010, there were six student deaths attributed to suicide at Cornell.

According to Cornell’s 2020 Mental Health Review, within the past year, over forty percent of students were unable to function academically for at least a week due to depression, stress or anxiety. 

Aleksa Dangeva ’24 attributes suicide rates at Cornell to the University’s poor mental health resources. 

“Cornell has taken a downstream approach, such as installing nets under bridges, rather than focusing on reasons students commit suicide here,” Dangeva said. “It’s heartbreaking to see how many students fall victim to something Cornell could be doing more to prevent.” 

Nicole Werner ’22 also sees the loss of students to suicide as heartbreaking and believes Cornell should take more action to prevent it.

“Over the past 4 years, this school has witnessed a truly large amount of tragedy. It is not only extremely saddening as a student to lose a member of your community, but also very frustrating and disappointing to not see any real change on the end of the administration,” Werner said.

On the other hand, Sammy Phelps ’23 believes that the mental health issue at Cornell stems from the University’s academic rigor rather than lack of resources.

“I think the issue is not with resources, because they are available if you seek them out. My stress comes from a lack of empathy from some professors,” Phelps said. “I think it’s more of a constant battle in terms of what’s expected of us and how we constantly have to rise to an unrealistic higher standard.”

Like Phelps, Dangeva believes that the pressure to constantly be the best creates a stifling environment. 

“With such high stress levels, Cornell should check in with students more often,” Dangeva said.“More breaks or wellness days could help students relax, and better prelim schedule planning could prevent students from facing intense weekly workloads.”

The recent suicide at Stanford has students reflecting on steps that they can take to improve their mental health, such as focusing on maintaining a balanced life. 

“Work out, hang out with your friends, you need to take time away from school. Sometimes at Cornell, it can feel like your whole world,”  Paula Loudermilk ’25 said. 

Like Loudermilk, Phelps concluded by emphasizing the need to take a break.

“In the Cornell bubble, it’s hard to realize that school is not the only thing that matters. You deserve to do things that make you happy. School should come second to your mental health,” Phelps said. 

For those who are struggling mentally, there are resources available on campus to help. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Cornell Health provides professional mental health care to aid during one’s time at Cornell. Available services include workshops, group or individual counseling, and 24/7 phone consultation.