Guardian Angels and Mental Health

Late January I’m reminded of the time I taught an introductory course in persuasion at a nearby university.  I don’t know why, but a significant number of seniors filled out the roster.  Challenging and fun at the same time, I kept my learning curve just ahead of my students.

One day, mid-semester, one of my students disappeared.  He just didn’t show up at class.  Being a senior, he needed the hours to graduate.  His loss, I thought, and hoped he studied classmate’s notes for the exam.  Weeks passed…final papers came….and my long-lost student showed up.

Irritated, I put on my stern face and asked that he stay after class.

He stayed behind and waited.  Something, perhaps his guardian angel, stepped in and opened my eyes.  “Are you ok?  I’ve missed you.  What’s been happening?” came from my mouth.

“I’ve been in bed,” he said.  “I’m scared.  My dad thinks I’m going to graduate…he’s looking forward to coming.  I can’t disappoint him.”

“In bed…when did this start?” I asked.  Then I heard the story…a trigger event.   A year ago in February, his mother died.  He hadn’t been to any of his classes.

I continue to be grateful for the grace given to me at that moment…and knowledge.  Let it be said that he got to a counselor and his father came for his graduation.

There should be no shame in admitting depression, no shame in seeking help.  Being knowledgeable about signs and symptoms of  it is a gift that you can share:  with knowledge you can become an advocate for yourself and others.

Mental health literacy is vital…it *can* save a life.


1 thought on “Guardian Angels and Mental Health”

  1. Such an important reminder. I had a student come to my office yesterday and immediately burst into tears as she started to explain her lateness turning in an assignment – explaining she had “taken on too much,” “had family issues going on (which she had disclosed earlier in the semester when missing some class),” and had just found out that a high school classmate had overdosed over the weekend.

    I am reminded that the lives of our students are often much more complicated and stressful than our own experience in college. I was lucky. My last four years have not been so lucky and it has highlighted for me the difficulty in getting even the basics done at times. I feel for my students and although some of them may be “turning on the tears” to get some allowances, most of them really are feeling too much stress and not dealing with it well.

    Thanks for writing this! We have an excellent counseling center at our University, but I’m afraid the stigma often makes it an underutilized resource.

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