Dear W&M Community,
In my conversations with Paul Soutter’s family and friends last week, I was reminded again of the difficult questions that follow the sudden death of a loved one, knowing there will never be easy answers. Understandably, many concerned members of the W&M family, including parents and alumni, have written expressing an urgent desire to understand what we’re doing to address mental health concerns and suicide on campus. I would like to answer whatever I can as we all seek to understand and to make a difference for the health and well-being of the W&M community.
To some it might seem insensitive or defensive in the wake of last week’s tragedy to begin a conversation about the things we are doing to support individual students and to promote a campus environment that is responsive to those with mental health needs. Surely no listing of programs and services will assuage the pain felt by those who are reeling from loss. Providing accurate and comprehensive information about resources available within our community can be of great comfort to others, however. Moreover, a critical aspect of any comprehensive suicide prevention plan is ensuring that students, faculty and staff have accurate information about resources available to them on campus. We must continue to repeat this information whenever it is sought. That is the motivation for this email and for the detailed document which has been posted to our website outlining our multi-dimensional approach to suicide prevention. The executive summary highlights what W&M is currently doing as well as initiatives “on the horizon.” Those coming initiatives include the addition of a full-time psychiatrist to the Counseling Center staff, the construction of a new Integrative Wellness Center to be built in the heart of campus, and the introduction of a new tele-therapy service, ProtoCall, that will expand the breadth and depth of after-hours clinical support and assessment. Following the executive summary, the document offers detailed descriptions of the services and programs in place, as well as an appendix that addresses several key contextual issues related to college student mental health here at W&M and nationwide.
W&M is committed to honoring the time and space this community needs for compassionate listening, constructive conversation, and healing. With that in mind, I wanted to remind you about the open conversation on mental health and suicide prevention this evening, Wednesday, April 22 at 5:00 p.m. in Chesapeake A. Additionally, our student leaders in the National Residence Hall Honorary (NRHH) will be hosting a “Front Porch Talk on Mental Health and Suicide” on Monday, April 27 from 6:30-8:30 in Commonwealth Auditorium. Your thoughts and ideas are important as we consider what more W&M can do to promote well-being within our community.
Because there can be healing in knowledge, I trust that you will receive this information in the spirit given – as a sincere attempt to communicate openly about the difficult issues we face and the ways in which W&M is working to promote well-being for all our students. We will continue those efforts and will remain steadfast in our striving to improve upon them.