We can’t ignore the headlines, so don’t ignore students’ mental health
Content warning: This article references gun violence and racist violence. The 24/7 wellbeing hotline number is 713-348-3311.
For over a year now, it seems like each week has brought with it a new form of trauma and disaster for us to deal with as a society. We have gone through (but not really past) COVID-19, an election, an insurrection and now extreme gun violence has reemerged center stage of the never-ending news cycle that this decade has become.
Even by our American standards, the level of violence plaguing our lives is staggering. The U.S. has experienced at least 50 mass shootings since the racially motivated attacks on Asian-owned spas in Atlanta that left eight people dead last month, and in the past weekend alone, there were at least half a dozen more. To name just a few: A gunman left eight people dead after a shooting rampage at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 15. In Kenosha County, Washington, three people were killed and three others wounded in a shooting at The Somers House tavern on April 18. The same afternoon in Austin, a former law enforcement officer killed three people and evaded arrest for nearly 20 hours, keeping the city on edge. And though it hardly received any attention, two people were killed at a Whataburger in northern Houston early on Monday morning. The threat of mass shootings has grown so great that experts have proposed a new mantra akin to the “stop, drop and roll” rule we learn as children: “run, hide, fight.”
In the midst of the high-profile and harrowing trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty on April 20 — as we wrote this editorial — of the murder of George Floyd last May, the nation has been rocked by even more police brutality. Just 10 miles from where the Chauvin trial was taking place, a 20-year-old unarmed Black man named Daunte Wright was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop. Days later, video footage was released of 13-year-old Adam Toledo being shot and killed by Chicago police on March 29. Both shootings have reignited the nation with fury over police killings of Black and Brown people. These events have savagely reopened the extremely recent scars of collective racial trauma and grief that was renewed for many Americans last summer in light of the killings of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
With such a high frequency of historic events that have spotlighted the difficult realities of violence in the U.S., students can’t help but be glued to the headlines. Most people have the luxury of reading about instances of racial injustice and gun violence and remaining personally unaffected by these tragedies. But for many others, including students, these incidents are far less easily forgotten. Assignments may fall to the wayside during the time we devote to checking news outlets for developments on the latest death or tragedy, and the emotional fallout and energy drain that may result does not dissipate after a day or two.
With finals season and end-of-year deadlines rapidly approaching, students are already burnt out. As a result, there has been little time and attention given among the campus community to recent violent events. We want to remind students that we should not be pressured to “get used to” or “get over” these extremely traumatic events. It would be easy for us to encourage students to “take a break” or “practice self- care” to process the emotions that may be resulting from the headlines. However, as students ourselves, we understand that this is easier said than done.
Mental health is at the forefront of improvements the university should be making, as the recent Student Association resolution calling for increased accessibility to wellbeing resources shows. In light of recent traumatic events and the extremely stressful season of finals before students, we ask university administration and faculty to not only pay attention to students’ mental and emotional health, but make it a priority.
Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Rishab Ramapriyan, Ivanka Perez, Amy Qin, Nayeli Shad, Ella Feldman, Katelyn Landry, Rynd Morgan, Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Simona Matovic and Dalia Gulca.
More from The Rice Thresher
Before you attend a counseling session at the Rice counseling center, you will be told that “the RCC maintains strict standards regarding privacy.” You will find statements from the university that your mental health record will not be shared with anyone outside of extreme situations of imminent harm, and only then that your information will be shared with only the necessary officials. This sounds great, except that these assurances bear no teeth whatsoever — no enforcement agency ensures that Rice follows its public confidentiality promises, and there are no penalties for Rice if they break them. The Wellbeing and Counseling Centers should more directly communicate the limits of their confidentiality policies when compared to unaffiliated counseling centers, and students in sensitive situations should take the necessary precautions to protect their information.
This week marks the last issue of the Thresher for the year, and for the seniors like myself, our last issue ever. I have been a part of the Thresher since freshman year. And it would not be an exaggeration to say it has defined my Rice experience. As someone pursuing a career in journalism after graduation, there has been no better place to learn than at this paper.
In January, the Rice Board of Trustees announced plans to move the Founder’s memorial to another area of the academic quad as part of a whole redesign, adding additional context of his “entanglement” with slavery. This comes despite continual calls from the student body to not have the enslaver displayed in the quad regardless of the context provided. It would be just for these calls to action and the majority of the Task Force Committee who voted to not keep it there that the Board of Trustees decide to not keep the memorial prominently displayed in the quad at all.