Trigger warning: this story contains content about suicide.
My name is Cree Medley and I had struggled with my mental health for years, but things got progressively worse in college. During my first two years of undergraduate study, my mental health declined rapidly, despite my high GPA and involvement with various on-campus activities, and was likely influenced by the intimate partner violence I was experiencing. After a suicide attempt and brief stay in inpatient care my sophomore year, I was referred to UIC’s Disability Resource Center where I finally felt I had some sort of path to getting better.
Half a year later, I tried to get services through our counseling center only to have to wait many weeks for an appointment; a common occurrence amongst the students I personally knew. Once my appointment finally came, I was not given counseling but instead referred to different psychiatrists and therapists. It took several more months for me to finally get consistent professional help. I spent my entire college career struggling to balance the complex and messy world of mental health while not being able to take any time off due to the constraints of my full-ride scholarship and my inability to afford college for even a semester without it.
My story is one of the more positive ones. I eventually graduated from my university. Many students had far longer wait times than I did, sometimes waiting months to see someone. Many never got the help they needed. Without a diagnosis, there is little immediate support for students, like those who lose loved ones or have an acute trauma. COVID-19 has only made things harder: a recent Harvard poll found that more than half of young Americans are going through an extended period of feeling “down, depressed or hopeless” in recent weeks, and a CDC study found that one in four young adults have considered suicide during the pandemic. We know that students don’t often drop out for academic reasons, but for personal issues outside of the classroom. It truly doesn’t have to be this way- with the right treatment, students can recover, succeed, and graduate.
In 2019, legislators passed the Mental Health Early Action on Campus law to help public colleges and universities provide better mental health services. But legislators have failed to fund this crucial law, rendering it ineffective. This is why I am calling on Illinois legislators to appropriate the $19 million required to implement the Mental Health On Campus Act. I imagine that if my campus had robust mental health resources I would have had the opportunity to recover and heal more quickly. I’m sure for other students, it could have saved their lives.
Cree Medley graduated from University of Illinois-Chicago 2020 where she double-majored in Sociology and Political Science with a concentration in Law & Courts and double-minored in Economics and French & Francophone Cultures. She currently works for the University of Chicago Urban Health Lab, focusing on the Transform911 project which seeks to facilitate action to improve equity and justice in our crisis-response systems. She is a member of Young Invincibles’ Midwest Youth Advisory Board, where she advocates for students’ access to crucial mental health services and for much-needed improvements in equity, access, and inclusion in Illinois’s higher education system.