This letter is a long time coming — the amount of times I have sat down to write these sentiments is almost too high to count. In the face of so many deaths on campus, it is difficult to put the emotions that are associated with a friend taking their own life into words. The overwhelming grief, guilt and rage cannot be adequately captured with the English language, but at some point, we have to be brave enough to try.
In my time at Western, I have heard many things following the suicide of my peers; I have heard what a shameful loss of life it is. I have heard empty platitudes about how we must do better that are followed by no action. I have seen the university and the University Students’ Council pass resolutions to do better and conscientiously not follow through with their commitments. I have heard a residence manager suggest to a student that mental illness is like a broken leg because it is better dealt with off-campus. Most troubling, I have heard nothing at all — business as usual.
But this is not a usual that I think any student or staff should accept. Western University does have a chance to improve. And it must. The recent USC and Senate elections have shown that student leaders have made mental health a priority. The University’s Mental Health Strategic Plan has given us hope as well. However, we as students must not allow these signs of progress to remain empty gestures. We must speak up and hold our leaders and university accountable for ensuring that our mental health is a priority. We must emphasize that Western must invest in our mental health because an investment in this resource is an investment in our academic success. We must emphasize that saying a final goodbye to even one of our peers is too many.
So, while it is hardly possible to find the correct words when faced with a situation as wicked as the death of our friends, I challenge the students, leaders and the faculty of Western University to at least say “enough is enough,” and do everything in their power to ensure that we do not lose any more of our friends to the suicide epidemic that continues unspoken on our campus.
— Riley Garno, incoming Faculty of Health Sciences senator, fourth-year Honors Bachelor of Health Sciences and Honors Bachelor of Political Sciences student