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‘Are you going to CAPS?’

A question I have been asked many a time, upon divulging the fact that I am sad, or distressed, or scared, or feeling unstable. To answer the question: no. I am, in fact, in therapy. But I use a separate system that has proven to be much better for my overall mental health. That is not the point of this piece. What I want to talk about is my loved ones, and my not so loved ones, who feel that this is an appropriate question to ask.

Statement for delivery to President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole on Stanford’s leave of absence policy

It’s undeniable that mental illness is a pressing issue on college campuses, especially at Stanford, where students are constantly pressured to succeed. It’s undeniable, too, that stigma against mental illness is a form of ableism — something that blames individuals for their struggles instead of attending to structural issues like a lack of accessibility to mental health resources. Which is why it’s so frustrating to learn that Stanford has made it a matter of institutional policy to treat students struggling with mental illness as security risks to be disciplined, and not as people with disabilities, worthy of respect. Through a gross misapplication of its Dean’s Leave of Absence policy, Stanford has evicted students from on-campus housing and barred them from campus for either expressing suicidal ideas or acting on suicidal thoughts, without regard to the facts of each individual’s case and the possible long-term impact of its actions on students’ health and recovery.