A Mental Prison

Please also read: re: A Mental Prison

To the reader:

I wrote the majority of this essay before I left the university after my Spring 2018 semester. I was asked my opinion on how the school could better address the existing and largely ignored stresses of being a student at Truman State University. However, as mental illness is largely a subjective experience, I decided to opt out of publishing it and, instead, left it to sit more of just as a journal entry.

However, after my girlfriend notified me that TSU’s Counseling Services released an absolutely appalling “Limitations to Services”, I was instantly outraged at the ridiculous restrictions that these limitations imposed on students. I will spare you the explanations, but you should definitely read them yourself. And just in case they decide to take it down due to the backlash, here is a link where you can download it in PDF form.

Essentially, Truman State has said, “if you are dealing with any symptoms of mental illness, such as loss of motivation, self-harm, or are even struggling with your courses, we are allowed to turn you away.”

In my most recent Facebook post, I summed it up as “if you are struggling with the symptoms of mental illness, we can’t help you with mental illness.”

In such a dire time of need for the university to reform and establish progressive ways of handling the absolutely awful living conditions of the school, this is several steps in the wrong direction, essentially telling the students that “we can’t help you, sorry!”

As the last resort to many students, UCS even suggests driving to Columbia, which is nearly two hours away, or even to Saint Louis or Kansas City, nearly double that distance, to seek help for their mental illness. Needless to say for many, this is either impossible or highly impractical.

In an article published by The Index, Truman’s student newspaper, reports that Sue Thomas, the president of the university, is seeking to hire a consulting firm, wondering why students aren’t attending the school anymore.

Truman State University President Sue Thomas said at the recent Faculty Senate meeting that university enrollment is down around 250 new students and around 400 full-time enrolled students overall. She also said the retention rate has been gradually decreasing over the years.

All I have to say to that is, and pardon my French, no shit. Instead of resolving issues internally, the university is allocating more funds for a consulting firm that is basically going to tell them exactly what their current students can tell them for free.

Even The Princeton Review reported that Truman State University was in the top 10 for the least happy students in the US.

Hell, the rest of this essay is going to tell them exactly what kinds of things they should be doing instead of hiring a consulting firm and being completely blind about the current state of affairs when it comes to the students’ quality of life.

Leaving Truman changed my life for the better, and I encourage anyone struggling to reconsider subjecting yourself to torture at a university with only one selling point: we’re cheap.

I’d rather you pick a place that makes you a priority and not your tuition. It gets better, but sure as hell not in Kirksville.

Here is my letter:


Dear Truman State University (3/28/2018),

Truman State University, the “Harvard of the Midwest”, is known for its rigorous academics, high affordability, and absolutely rampant mental illness.

The 2014 Missouri College Health Behavior Survey provides valuable statistics on the state of mental health at my university. Nearly 1 out of every 5 students responding to the survey reported a depressive episode and suicidal thoughts; our suicide rate is nearly three times the rate of other Missouri colleges, and we’ve experienced four suicides over the course of two years.

Four. If calculated at a rate per 100,000, we would be at roughly 32, nearly four times the national average.

email from Truman State University about recent suicide of student

The above is the usual response from the school’s administration: an email of sympathy letting the student body know about recent events.

Aside from the usual outrage and media coverage over what little the school has done to combat the apparent endemic of mental illness in the community, it seemed there was even less the people in positions of power were doing.

“Seek help if you are affected” and “we’re sorry this happened” were the usual sentiments expressed.

It feels inhuman for the administration to think that a couple of emails are enough to soothe the agony, especially following a lost life while idly standing by in the aftermath. What is being done? Who is in charge of this? How can we prevent this from ever happening again? And where can I get answers to these questions?

After attending Truman for two years, the shared mindset for many that I have talked to is that if you want to want to love life, do not attend this university.

Aside from the bland location and constantly elevated stress, there are many factors to why Kirksville is an awful location. The weather is usually overcast, bleak, and cold — absolutely amazing for anyone sensitive to the weather. A lack of recreational activities almost gives partying and drinking on the weekends as the only way to loosen up, all at the expense of exacerbating any mental illness symptoms they might have.

An understaffed counseling center and sparse access to high-quality, affordable mental health professionals in the area make Kirksville a breeding ground for mental illness.

The interaction between administration and student is also very limited, meaning that the policies governing students are rarely discussed.

However, as it comes with all different instances of outrage, there is often the need for a solution without the solution being presented. Without a course of action, the lingering emotions stay just that: emotions.

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the solution?

I have no experience writing policy nor do I have any experience running an institution, but I do know that there is no single blanket solution for mental illness. It is a volatile and elusive demon that cannot be solved with puppies on the quad or yoga sessions.

When a fellow brother of my fraternity asked me for advice on possible solutions to our mental health problem on campus, I did my best to conjure up reasonable and effective ways to address the problem of mental illness before it comes to yet another tragic student death.

Unfortunately, even with the persistent issue, I have rarely heard proposals such as these. Of course, they are just ideas and completely up for debate whether or not they would be effective or practical if brought to life.

In my positive psychology course, I learned about primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Tertiary prevention is the types of things that treat or address a problem when it is already a problem (e.g. liposuction for morbid obesity, pulling a tooth out after a cavity), secondary prevention is the type of measures we put in place when a problem is beginning to occur (e.g. monitoring blood pressure, mammograms to detect early forms of breast cancer), and primary prevention is stopping a problem from happening before it happens (e.g. healthy diet and exercise to prevent diabetes, vaccination/immunization).

These concepts are very important to mental health because even if the person is susceptible, the environment can play a key role in whether or not someone develops a mental illness.

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primary prevention

To start, Truman does an absolutely horrid job introducing students to college life. A jam-packed week of seminars and icebreakers is a perfect way to get an incoming student acclimated to the university’s campus and environment, yet Truman seems to sacrifice that in exchange for team building exercises and seminars that teach you the obvious.

Although these topics are not unimportant by any means, topics such as how/where classes operate, Truman’s academic policy, and creating a schedule seemed to be skipped entirely. Transitioning from the rigidity of high school life to the relaxed college laissez-faire approach is often jarring and often does not go as smoothly as many would like.

Topics such as personal finance (i.e. building credit, finding work), mental wellness, choosing a major — these things were skipped during my orientation week. If topics that were conducive to the transition into adulthood were more of a focus, I think that many students would be better equipped entering such an unknown and intimidating stage of life.

Obligatory participation is also an interesting (taxing) aspect of college: one of my professors strictly outlined what it takes to get a 100% in participation (which, in some classes, can decide as much as a letter grade): for 3/3 points, one must say something especially insightful or speak a high number of times. What those things mean is ambiguous and not an actual measure of what a student can contribute, but many times just the opinion of the professor.

In addition, it might even hurt the grades of those who are quiet, anxious or have trouble attending class from time to time. I’ve had a number of professors state that if a certain number of classes are missed, then the course would be dropped automatically, stacking on the pressure to perform continuously and leading to burnout.

Truman is especially known for its “high value” or, equivocally, “low budget” — it’s one of the biggest selling points of the university.

Low tuition rates are often the most attractive factor for incoming students as it is highly competitive with schools around the Midwest. However, this might mean that financially, students may struggle with paying for college in the first place.

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Even several thousand dollars can be an immense burden on someone who has no means for paying for college in the first place, yet Truman imposes an incredible standard for those receiving scholarships: a 3.25 or above GPA. Anything below that number begins to reduce scholarships entirely. Although I agree that a standard should be put in place, one that demands such high academic performance is bound to lead to a high-stress environment, even before a student begins classes.

Truman’s low cost doesn’t come without setbacks, however. On-campus residents of the university are required to purchase a meal plan which is accepted at any of the four dining locations across campus. Essentially all of our food is supplied by Sodexo and is possibly one of the worst parts of the university.

I would say the best thing that they consistently put out is a cheeseburger. Two white-bread buns, a single patty, and a slice of yellow cheese.

Everything else is absolutely unappetizing or inedible, making me feel like I’m stuck in high school or even worse, a prison. Much of what Sodexo seems to be absolutely devoid of nutrition and, worst of all, taste. Anything healthy seems to be revolting and, if you don’t want to eat a salad every day, you’re usually at a loss of options. Their meats are extremely dry and unseasoned, the vegetables are usually overcooked and obviously not fresh, something that Sodexo seems to take pride in.

Unused meals can be cashed out at convenience stores where the usual sodas, chips, and candies are located. Calculating the average meal price for a 14-per-week plan each semester, the student pays roughly $9.00 for each meal, yet at these c-stores, they are only converted to a mere $3.75. What?!

With diet being such an important aspect of both physical and mental health, it is extremely difficult for students to eat a wholesome diet every day without buying their own groceries, which usually only comes after moving off campus. Unfortunately, during the adaptive period of college, acquiring healthy eating habits may be one of the deciding factors of maintaining that healthy lifestyle.

For the cost of a relatively good entree at a three-star restaurant, I would expect more from the dining halls than something lower in quality than McDonald’s. Truman should provide higher standards of living to accompany their high demands for academic performance and reflect their living costs.

Finally, due to the lack of outlets for relieving stress, many students seem to turn to drinking as a way to wind down after a demanding week. Bars and fraternity parties seem to be the only way of getting out — other than that, we’re stuck at home watching a movie or forced to drive 3+ hours to the nearest hometown.

As a substance with many links to worsening mental illness, alcohol and its mass use across campus silently yet undoubtedly contribute to the issue. Is such a dependency a symptom of the high-stress environment, a contributor to mental illness, or both?

A lack of an assisted transition and education about what college really entails leaves incoming students clueless. The high rigor and persistent demand for success leave them in a constant state of stress and the lack of a healthy environment put students further and further down the rabbit hole.

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Which leads us to…

secondary prevention

This is the second line of defense: secondary prevention, which aims to address and slow the progression of the problem.

It seems the administration of Truman loves to interact with students with a 10-foot pole. I intermittently receive emails containing surveys on the current state of affairs. Are you satisfied with Truman? Are you feeling depressed? How are you involved with Truman’s community? 

While these are important statistics every educational institution should be asking, I feel like Truman’s involvement with the student body really stops there. Much of it seems to be damage control, scrambling to find some kind of solution as quickly as possible while the pressure is on.

I don’t believe that it’s a problem when it becomes a problem, but rather something that should be constantly be considered and addressed.

Even though I would consider myself to be someone who is rather involved in the campus’ events, all I’ve seen so far are emails — inhuman and are not a replacement for true interaction between the administration and the student body.

Truman students rarely get a day off.

Even when the sidewalks are covered in ice, there are multiple reports of severe injury and concussion, and teachers cannot get out of their own driveway, the director of Truman State University’s police was the only one to send out an email stating that:

With this inclement weather, you are encouraged to use your judgment about your own safety.  If you do not feel safe traveling to or on campus, please do not do so. If you are a student, please contact your faculty about the class(es) you will miss.

The administration basically put student’s class attendance and academics above their safety. If this doesn’t tell you why the state of Truman’s mental health crisis is the way it is, then I don’t know what will. After that day, a petition was created that received over 1,000 signatures, yet there was no statement from the administration.

More ironically, even though the university is named after a president, we don’t get President’s Day off.

The constant persistence is partly why people burn out. A single-day break here and there wouldn’t necessarily extend the school year for far too long and allow for more time to catch up on school work.

ATSU and Truman bringing Kevin Hines, a suicide attempt survivor, was an important first step in bringing the community together. With his important message that hope can be found even after the darkest of times, I think that many people were inspired and motivated by his words.

But it was just that. We brought someone to boost morale for a little bit, and then the administration seems to slither back into its hibernation. An institution that continually seems to hand a student a pamphlet and basically say, “it’s your problem, you go do something about it” is the wrong way to do it.

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tertiary prevention

When you have a problem that’s presenting itself as a problem, then you need tertiary prevention. How do we treat the issue at hand? 

When over 1,200 students are struggling with these issues, we can’t expect there to be a blanket solution to everything. Some people believe that hiring more counselors or more qualified professionals would help, but there will never be an adequate number for so many that are struggling.

Recently, an email to the student body from our student government included this change to our tuition on which to vote for:

  1. Increasing the health fee from $27 to $37 per semester to increase on-campus access to psychological and/or psychiatric resources.

It’s a good attempt, though one that doesn’t seem to make any substantial change to the lack of resources. There are only five counselors that work for the university’s counseling services (UCS). $62,000 seems like it would only pay for another counselor maximum considering the average salary for a psychologist or psychiatrist is many more times that.

In addition, as sympathetic and understanding professors might be initially to the concept of mental illness, many seem to ignore the fact that it’s not being a one-time thing and can’t really be planned ahead for.

Dear professor,

I’m going to be depressed tomorrow and the day after, so I might not come to class. I should be undepressed after that, though.

Many thanks,

Lawrence Hu

It’s not a concussion. It doesn’t go away after being given an extension for one assignment or test or one office hours. And it sure is a pain in the ass to be proactive about something that can hit you randomly one day.

Even worse, if you suffer academically, you’re given a semester on academic probation, which means that if you continue to do poorly, you’re asked to leave until you can prove that you can be a “good student”. If the reason you’re not performing as well as you’d like is that of mental illness or its symptoms, the resources to find a remedy for that requires you to look elsewhere.

This kind of “kick ’em while they’re down” mentality seems to be shared with a lot of organizations on campus. If someone is struggling to perform, we shouldn’t slap a label on them and threaten them with suspension from the university or financial penalties.

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conclusion

Winter this year nearly lasted from November to April: that’s an insane 6 months of winter. Even now, Kirksville is shrouded in intermittent periods of snow and below freezing temperatures. Regardless of what you’re going through, the bitter cold, overcast skies, and short days are bound to make the lives of many that are living here miserable. And it definitely has.

This was a seriously long blog post.

But, I think it went through a lot that’s wrong with Truman State University, though I have never attended another institution. I think many colleges or even organizations in general share such a mindset: one where there is too much focus on the academics or how many people are paying tuition and not enough attention to students’ well being.

These are all of the things that I have experienced while going through Truman. I’ve been through their counseling services, health center, disabilities office, faculty, and academic offices numerous times over the course of the time I’ve been here.

We need to be an institution that values growth and experience rather than pushing for sole academic performance. What does the slogan “Don’t Follow, Pursue” even mean if the students are just following the same routine as everywhere else, being subjected to the same stress and pressure as everywhere else.

It seems the mantra of Truman doesn’t align with its policy. We should be pursuing a new age of education, not one that is lagging behind and having its students suffer.

I’m not here to complain about how I should be handed straight A’s or given a second chance, but rather, I want the administration and faculty of Truman State University to take action to make our college one that is an environment where a student can thrive. Instead of the constant pressure to perform due to threats of financial penalty and even suspension, Truman needs to reconsider whether they’re just trying to make money or if they’re trying to educate the next generations of students.

We can’t assume that good academic performance is what makes students healthy. It’s healthy students that achieve good academic performance.

Thanks for reading,

-Lawrence Hu

Please read the postscript.

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24 thoughts on “A Mental Prison”

  1. Lawrence,
    Thank you for this post! I have shared this with the alumni association and have shared that I will not be giving to the university until I see a better approach from the administration surrounding mental health.

    Thank you for sharing your experience, and don’t give up on making people aware of the issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Katelyn! This letter has gotten so much attention over the past day. Thank you so much for helping to bring attention to Truman’s issues regarding mental health and hopefully, we can make a change that improves the student experience for everyone. I hope that these ideas will bring new discussion so that we may end up saving a life in the long run.

      Like

  2. Wait until you get out in the real world. It’s pure sink or swim out here. Better buckle up buttercups. The ride is wild and the food stinks out here also.

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    1. Mr. Hockenstein, I pray that you never experience depression or have a beloved family member who does. This writer’s article and opinions stated within are far from crying about not receiving good food. Truman and the community of Kirksville do not have the resources to deal with mental health. As both an alumni and a parent of a recent graduate, Truman needs to address these issues sooner than later. I hope before one more student loses their life.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I attended Northeast Missouri State long ago. Times were tough then too. Food was the same. Pressure to get good grades the same. You must compete. Survival of the fittest (smartest). It works the same way once you exit the college campus. The reason for the depression in the article is due to pressure. I’m telling you it doesn’t change once you exit college. Buckle up. Sincerely, A Word from the Wise.

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    2. I am disgusted and outraged by your comments.
      Even those feelings, I hope and pray you never have a county sheriff show up at your door to tell you that your 21 year old daughter committed suicide.
      I would almost guarantee that your employer offers you an employee assistance program, a program where, you, if you need it, can get help.
      The school is not equipped to help our kids.

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  3. Thank you for putting into words what I experienced at Truman during my first semester of college. I’ve since transferred to UCM (much better, and warmer) and I am much happier here. I hope your mental health is better. I know how terrible mine was when I attended.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Some thoughts from a TSU alum:

    I think some of this article is honestly whining, but there are some very valid points. UCS is truly awful, they do not do a good job of transitioning kids to college life, and the food was garbage.

    In my last job I spent 2.5 years traveling to 6 different states to 14 different colleges repeatedly and each and every one of those schools was farther north and had worse weather than Truman, but only one I felt like had the same problems as Truman (NDSU Fargo, shout out for being awful). So from my experience visiting schools in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, central Iowa, etc. that are not as bleak as Truman, I challenge your weather theory.

    Adair county is a bad and for lack of a better word, a super f*cked up place. Truman truly needed more activities and ways for students to express themselves and blow off steam beyond Jesus, drinking, or dungeons and dragons to protect and allow students to unplug from the fact that they lived in a town that not only had bad weather, but was filled with horrible poverty and a raging meth problem. In addition to allowing more extra curricular outlets for students, that college needs to use their recourses to help fix the broken community that surrounds that campus.

    Every college town I visited in my travels with my old job had poetry readings, live music venues of all kinds, a variety of workout classes, and generally more ways for students to express themselves outside of class. At Truman, if you don’t fit the box of nerd, church kid, or alcoholic, then there’s not really much for you and that’s a huge issue at that school. I don’t regret going to Truman, but that school and that town are broken.

    (That format I wrote that was kinda trash but I’m on my iPhone )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alexandra, thanks for stopping by.

      Maybe I am whining a little bit, but a lot of us are getting really desperate as we watch the awful death count rise year after year. Even after I’ve left the school I just feel so awful every time I read of another student passing in The Index. I think that most of the variables I talk about (weather, food) aren’t the cause by themselves, but altogether, with the cold, the uncaring professors, awful treatment options, and lack of things to do — all of that just collides and creates this massive mess that nobody can really “fix” unless they target everything at once.

      I guess I never really fit the nerd/church/alcoholic type, so I managed to get out of there as a final ditch effort to save my own life. I greatly appreciate the feedback and hearing your experiences.

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    2. I agree, the transition felt nonexistent, there is Truman Week, but first of all, it’s just a week, second, it’s a group activity, there is no individual support, you are expected to seek help for that. I failed calc 1 my first semester, dropped a difficult course my second semester, and dropped calc 2 this semester. I fell into a place I don’t think anyone should be because I thought I was either stupid or a lazy, garbage human. I didn’t want to pursue anymore, heck I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning even to go to the bathroom. I think I have lowered the intensity of said issue, but it’s too easy for students to get to that point.

      Another peeve of mine is Truman’s seemingly proud disposition toward the state of Kirksville. I have lived just thirty minutes East of here my whole life and Kirksville and Adair county are probably the worst areas around here. It may be bigger, it may appear safer, but compared to what, St. Louis? Cities are known for crime, not country towns, and for the population the environment feels very depressing and boring.

      I got nothin’ on the weather, I hate summer and love snow. I can’t say the same for ice, speaking of which, the paths and walkways seem to invite ice just based on their composition. Bricks produce unpleasant forms of “black ice” very well and the concrete used also seems to hold ice better than some other types I’ve seen. Not saying we should rip up the sidewalks, but maybe we should take it into consideration along with putting the students health above their classes and attendance.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. “It’s Truman” seems to be a religion taught to students. I am always surprised by how much both professors and students believe on stress to be glory that comes together with attending Truman. As a Truman student, I think changing this concept is the first step to change the trends of mental health issue. If you are taught that ‘at certain point you are going to have some mental issues but suck it up coz this is Truman’ is not the way to deal with it and no student should feel that its okay to go through it as a lot of fellow students apparently seems to be going through it. There can be least done about the location of Truman but there as numerous things they can work on.

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    1. We’ve repeated “Harvard of the Midwest” so many times that we’ve started to believe it, even though it isn’t really true. We might be the Harvard of stress and high expectations, but definitely nowhere else. The demands for students are there, but the demands for the school are never really met. Thanks for stopping by.

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  6. I feel like I’ve been trying to put this same sentiment into words since I left Truman last year, and you hit the nail on the head. When people talk about their experiences with mental health at TSU I feel simultaneously disheartened that other people go through this, and relieved that it’s not just me. I, personally, had gone through an extremely rocky start my first semesters there. I had been struggling with depression/suicidal tendencies since I was a child that had, unfortunately, never really been addressed; the lack of structure, resources, and guidance meant that I spiraled pretty quickly, and I almost lost myself in it. When professors (specifically my academic advisor who was great) went out of their way to help me, I still felt like I was letting them down by not living up to the expectations demanded of me. Like you, I had been through what seemed like every nook & cranny of UCS, disability services, the like, and I’m still very grateful to those who were willing to help me, but it ultimately just wasn’t sustainable. A lot of the time I still think about how _I_ could have done better, and not how the university could have served me in a way that was more productive. It’s a shame really. Thank you for sharing your experiences, good luck out there, & best wishes.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The challenges a person faces after high school are the same regardless of your life’s path. College is no different from the workplace. You are expected to learn the environment and perform the task. I believe our institutions have yielded to student needs and offer reasonable services. It must feel like a heartless statement, but the time to solve your own problems has arrived. You set priorities. You face consequences. Ultimately, that’s your goal. Being honest with yourself and your needs. If those needs require psychiatric counseling, that is beyond the college counselor role. You have purchased the privilege of educating yourself in an incubator that accommodates many behaviors and one that delivers access to many resources. You face the responsibility of matching that knowledge to the fairytale that you have crafted for your life. Don’t get bloated on the idea of attending the ‘Harvard of the Midwest’ because you know it’s not true and in all honesty, no one cares.

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  8. Hi Lawrence,

    I’m going to start out by saying that I know, from experience, how important mental health care is, especially in the college years/environment. I do not agree with those who say you need to suck it up – however, the whole “woe is me, Truman is the worst” tone was very offputting. The food and presidents day comments seemed like you were just looking for things to complain about – most schools do not offer good food and have unfair meal plans, and I didnt know getting presidents day off was even a thing. As for mental health, I’m torn between believing that it’s the university’s responsibility to provide for its students, and “you get what you pay for”. It is not the schools fault there are no mental health care places nearby, and when you go to school in a cornfield, you (should) come in knowing that the community resources will not be the same as those in a city. While I do think its crappy that they are turning away people who need help, my school has the exact same policy, and we pay a lot more in tuition that can go towards hiring counselors. School is a strain on everyone, and part of picking out a college is choosing one that will fit your needs. A small school in a small town will simply not be able to provide comprehensive health care, and its not about their policy, it’s about what they have to work with. While a discussion in improving mental health care is long overdue in institutions all over the country, weather, presidents day, and meal plans are not an effective way to contribute to that conversation, and it needs to be recognized what the institution can reasonably provide. So basically yes, Truman sounds like a crappy school, but it sounds like most of that is either the same at most other universities, or could’ve been foreseen and avoided by going to a different college that better suited your needs. No disrespect intended, I just would’ve liked to have seen a more productive discussion on this topic. I guess the name of this website is perfect ideals though, so maybe I, too, should have known what I was getting into.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lawrence, Thank you for writing this though I am pained to know you needed to!! I read the other comments & while yes, as most (especially idealists) are guilty of, there may have been a few rabbit holes or disconnects in your post, I will choose to focus on your message as a whole. Bravo! I stand up, tears streaming down both cheeks, & give you a thunderous applause for your bravery. I also wish I could reach out to hug you for the pain beneath it. Thank you for your voice. We will never erase the stigma or make progress if we don’t speak up!

    I am personally forever tied to this past few year epidemic at Truman & this still somehow shocked even me. Your statement that “It feels inhuman for the administration to think that a couple of emails are enough to soothe the agony, especially following a lost life while idly standing by in the aftermath. What is being done? Who is in charge of this? How can we prevent this from ever happening again? And where can I get answers to these questions? and ” After attending Truman for two years, the shared mindset for many that I have talked to is that if you want to want to love life, do not attend this university” …. this is at the heart of what your readers need to take away. I can tell you the TSU is failing here.

    You are correct in saying Truman has a lot of choices to make about their focus. They have to CHOOSE a different course that is not driven by the panic in their pocketbook. They have been making choices & the consequences show where their priorities have been. Somehow, with someone, it has to change. I want to say more but can’t (for various reasons) so I will just thank you, for now, & encourage you to stand strong in your voice. It matters as do YOU!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Lawrence,
    Thank you for writing this. As parent, we rarely see this side, so while it makes me extremely angry, it also gives me hope. Hope that other parents will read this and understand that, Truman is not living up to their end if the deal.
    I am the father of Abigail Fones, Abbie made a choice on 21 oct 2018, a choice that has forever changed our lives.
    We will never fully understand the “why” and while her mother and I along with her brother and sister begin to heal, I can’t help ut to think…. could TSU done more to help her, and the many before her.

    Thanks,
    Steven Fones

    #abbielove

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Lawrence,
    I’m a graduate of 2006 and I wish I could say I’m surprised how little has changed at Truman, except of course now students have died and it seems there is no greater sense of urgency. I briefly utilized UCS while I was a student, but the intake process was upsetting, the expectations were presented without a conversation about what progress looks like, what coping techniques could be employed. Frankly I felt like more of a way to help someone get a degree than for someone to help me.
    Your description of high-achieving lower-income students rings especially true. I was the oldest child and felt obligated to take a position at the lowest cost university with the highest scholarship amounts, which was of course Truman for me. The pressure and transition did not go well. I was used to rigorous structure, being able to achieve with little effort, and a peer group I had always known. Truman has to know these are all issues but they continue to ignore it. My brother graduated from there last year and nothing changed on that front in between our years. I had friends who were attending top-ranked schools (not just the “Harvard of the Midwest”) and they were shocked by how little Truman did to incorporate us into student life and how much busy work there was for us in classes. I was often spending more time on my studies than they were. It’s as if Truman confuses pressure with performance.
    I’m a special case where I also had major medical issues while at Truman. I was given very little assistance with those too. I had to withdraw for a semester and upon my return, student housing, professors, and disability services wanted nothing to do with me or my minor accommodations. This says to me how little thought is given to wellness and health by Truman. It wasn’t just me; a fellow classmate had an incident that ended the same way with his health and return. The difference was he withdrew whereas I pushed ahead to graduate early and get out while I still could.
    My mental health has been an issue I’ve had to deal with for more than half of my life at this point. But the lack of support at Truman made it one of the darkest times in my life. I have been a successful adult at this point but I think it is not because of Truman but rather in spite of it. My education there was not that great, their concern with my success was very limited, and now they have the audacity to call me up and ask for funds. I wish throwing money at this would fix it for current and future students but I do not trust the leadership cares to fix it. Many of the mid-level leaders in place now are the ones who overlooked my own issues and complaints. I would not trust them with a dime. I recognize university is a time for independence and forming your own identity but I wish my professors or staff I worked with or administrators I talked to had cared. I wish now that they would feel empowered to speak up and direct policy and say “our students are not well” and for change to result. I fear the university is much more concerned with press and PR and not the lived experiences of those they should feel a sense of responsibility for.
    Thanks for writing this and for being open to a conversation.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hey Lawrence,

    Great post. I went to high school in Kirksville and this post speaks volumes. The town has such a toxic environment and having any mental health issues leaves many damaging effects. I’ve had to spend the last several years of my life just trying to leave the town behind me. I hope this article can reach the right people and they can make Truman and the rest of Kirksville a better place for mental health.

    Schweg

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am a 2003 graduate of TSU. While there, I was one of THREE non traditional students attending the university. This was Truman’s label for me, not mine. I was 33 when I graduated, so I guess my age made me “non traditional.” I attended TSU because I am from the area, am married, and had small children at home. Like many adults these days, I decided I wanted to get a college degree to better myself. This was before there were so many “online” universities to choose from, so I chose to attend Truman mainly because of my situation and it’s location. I was subjected to threats, hateful comments, and even had the tires on my car slashed. Though I reported all of these incidents to the campus police, they didn’t care. However, they threatened to suspend me from school over a parking ticket they gave me for what they called “parking in a location not specified for parking.” I had parked my car in one of the very few parking spots in front of Barnett Hall on a day when it was pouring down rain. I had no idea why they gave me a ticket, so I went to the Public Safety Office and disputed it. Basically, they cared more about the parking ticket than they did about my slashed tires and the threats I was receiving (both verbal and written). I had professors tell me I didn’t belong there. I was given poor grades on assignments simply because my views and beliefs weren’t the same as the younger students. I tried talking to my professors when this would happen, and many times I was just blatantly told I didn’t belong, and they didn’t want me there. As awful as it was, I persevered and graduated. I now have a worthless liberal arts degree that got me no further towards bettering myself. I am still paying back my student loans that I had to use to attend TSU. I still live and work in the surrounding area and therefore I encounter Truman students and faculty. In my opinion, nothing about the university has changed. The faculty still believe they are better than any other teacher at every other institution of higher learning, and the students still come from wealthy, stuck up families, that think they are better than everyone else.

    Signed,
    Just My Opinion

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As a 1984 alumna of (then) Northeast Missouri State University, I have so many thoughts and questions that I want to add, but–for the sake of brevity–I will only ask one question:

    How does your current university meet your needs better?

    Please be specific. For example, don’t just say “The food’s better.” Give samples of what is actually served. Or, instead of saying, ”There’s more to do,” give details of what you spend your time on like ”I saw this particular band in concert.”

    Thank you for sharing your difficulties and concerns here in writing. Getting issues of mental health out in in the open is vitally important.

    Liked by 1 person

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