Martha Wyatt-Luth ’25
Suicide. Depending on your background it may be considered taboo or even sinful. But no matter what, it is always heartbreaking and always tragic.
Just a few weeks ago, Stanford University senior Katie Meyer died by committing suicide in her dorm room on a seemingly ordinary Tuesday morning. Almost instantly unverified, reports were being made conjecturing it was a suicide, despite everything about Katie’s life appearing to be positive. She was a bright soccer player and student, held a consistent social media presence, and had many friends on campus. What more could a person need?
Stanford should be asking themselves this question too. Because mental health is not like a cooking recipe. A cookie-cutter schedule with eight hours of school work, three hours of practice, three meals a day, is not going to cut it for everyone to have a healthy mental state.
Katie had revealed in her public bio on Stanford’s website from an athlete spotlight that, “Balancing school and soccer has been challenging, but it’s all I’ve ever really known!” To Katie, stress and constant activity were interrelated, even inescapable. Her parents told NBC in an interview that they had spoken on the phone with Katie just hours before her death with no concern. Gina Meyers had noted, “She was excited and she had a lot on her plate, and she had a lot going on, but she was happy. She was in great spirits.” But how can it be that such a tragic, planned death was unforeseen by even those closest to her?
Depression for many people is a lonely, silent, life-long battle. Katie had known one way of life for so long—school and soccer. When the going gets tough, and there seems to be no way out, our minds race desperately for a solution. Schools need to be more prepared to provide necessary help so individuals battling with depression have the tools necessary to cope with and potentially overcome these challenges.
Katie’s parents, along with countless others that have lost their children, want to see the “desired and necessary change to prevent this tragedy from happening to other students and their families,” as the Meyers family stated.
Katie Meyers is not alone. Four Stanford students died by suicide in the last year. And, in our very backyard, at Worcester Polytechnic Institute there were seven student deaths in the last six months, five of which have been publically confirmed as suicides. A WPI spokesperson had announced, “We have experienced tremendous loss this academic year, and we are actively working to help our community.” Since then, a “Be Well Initiative” has been launched as a campus-wide Mental Health Initiative. It appears that suicide rates nationally, and especially on college campuses, have been rising in the last few years.
With the COVID pandemic nearly in our rearview mirror, our world has woken up to the mental health awareness movement. Individuals that unconsciously gripped their pre-Covid schedules were startlingly unarmed to face the world. Pastimes like grabbing coffee, strolling through parks, and traveling to cities on weekends soon became realized as deliberate mental health benefits. We as a global population are becoming conscious leaders of our physical and mental health. And with that, the state of student mental health requires institutional accountability for cultivating healthier environments.
What this may indicate is a need for system change: a sweeping effect in the way colleges approach education and what college life should look like for students in this new age of technology, increasingly competitive job markets, and permeating social alienation. As students, we need to keep our institutions accountable and not settle for subpar mental health services. We may not be able to change the global perception of mental health but on our own campus, we have the power for change.
Let’s not let Katie Meyer be a past story lost in a sea of new victims. Let’s be the wind of change that our campus, our community, and our people need.