Yale’s traumatic withdrawal process for students with “mental illness”

In my sophomore year at Yale in the Spring of 2001, I was grappling with depression. I went to the student mental health services, which then was called “mental hygiene” (nice one, Yale). The therapist, who I had just met, asked me about my history with depression, and when I mentioned suicidality asked me, pressured me, really, about the percentage likelihood I was going to kill myself. I was dumfounded, but didn’t really know what to say- so I threw out a high number because I was really in a state of despair. I was involuntarily hospitalized for the first time. And then forced to medically withdraw.

I returned to Yale, after the readmission process, in the Spring of 2003. I became a very involved as an activist in the UnFarallon campaign, a campaign to disclose Yale’s billions of dollars in dirty investments, that turned into a national campaign with a coalition of schools that got national attention. I think I might have been branded a troublemaker.  🙂  In Fall of 2004, I was struggling with spiritual emergency, and my psychiatrist in student health services involuntarily hospitalized me for racing speech, large ideas and some slight paranoia. It was not the standard grounds for hospitalization- I was not a danger to self or others. I was let out of the hospital, but not given any extra support, put on a bunch of pills. I ended up in the hospital again after a few weeks, and then again was forced to medically withdraw from school. I felt like I was subhuman after the head psychiatrist dismissed me with some harsh words.

Again, I went through the readmission process. Sum total, I had to reapply 5 times because I wasn’t allowed back in right away. Readmission is tough- it required taking 2 classes at an accredited university, earning at least a B, and steady work or volunteer work, and recommendations from a clinician and supervisors, etc.
But I did it. In my first interview for readmission (you have to interview with a series of Deans), one of the first questions the Dean asked me was, “So you were thinking of killing yourself?” It prompted me to cry. I wasn’t let back in that time. When I was finally let back in, one of the dean’s lauded me on my straightforward essay- he mentioned that another student had written their readmission essay in a spiral- there was no way she being let back in, he chuckled.

I had many friends who were dealing with suicidal feelings who were afraid to go to student mental health services and risk that they’d get thrown out of school.

There’s a lot more to say.

I’m attaching this article on this loss of life this year, as a result of Yale’s withdrawal policies.  And also a Mad in America article of mine on soul loss and Yale’s mental health services.