Preface: Carleton University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology Mental Health Failures and my Suicide Attempt.
Note: My suicide attempt has left me with significant mental “challenges”. It’s incredibly difficult for me to focus and consequently write/think at the same level I used to. It’s not impossible, and some days I am able to focus more easily than others but generally it’s a difficult and unpleasant process. This piece is unfinished and I will continue to work on it as my health permits.
Last Edit: 2021.08.18
I realize by now, about a year and half after the fact that no one involved will be held accountable for what happened. There isn’t anyone who will take this on my behalf, I suppose that’s true for most things in life. I have also come to understand that I won’t be able to move past what happened without taking some sort of stand and calling out the system whose structure enabled this and the people who participated. The only tangible result I expect from this is being able to look myself in the mirror, knowing that I did what I could to resist. If I allow myself to recall the naive ideals that pulled me into grad school, a desire to pursue truth in the service of justice, it has become painfully clear the only truth or justice I can expect to emerge from this nightmare is the one I choose to uncover and assert for myself.
I want to close this chapter of my life and move on and what comes next is necessary.
For a while I’ve been wanting to write a piece with the title I selected for this piece. It feels significant as it gives voice to my experience at Carleton University which up to this point I feel have been suppressed. I wasn’t sure how I could put into words those experiences, those emotions. I didn’t have the courage, or more generously, wasn’t ready to deal with to engage with that trauma. I’m still undecided it’s possible but starting has provided me with some confidence. I can build on this. The previous title I had selected, “Abandoning my Graduate Research: Carleton University’s Open Discrimination Towards Québec and Québécois.” was far too clinical. I suppose that’s where I’m going with this piece but involving my emotions, intentions and god knows what else will be messy. I would like to provide some order to my experiences at Carleton through these pieces, creating discourse that is capable of disentangling that complexity and if I’m hopeful, one that is also fair.
The former title engages with the result of my experiences as a grad student at Carleton without acknowledging the deeply personal emotional cost, the damage, or more directory my conception of what is weakness, how my weakness, allowed suicide attempt to materialize. It’s was easy for me to follow a rational path where a situation or environment which drove me to take my own life speaks more to how weak and incapable I must have been. It’s still difficult now, I catch myself falling back to using the passive and impersonal, trying to distance myself from this. I have to force myself, “It’s easy for one to follow…”. Yes, but no. This is a truth I have to deal with head on and admit my own responsibility, my weakness.
But if I’m to be courageous and honest, there’s more to it than weakness. The word weakness doesn’t represent fully a bountiful multiplicity of simultaneously coexisting explanations and perspectives that allowed a toxic work environment to affect me the way it did. Wanting to be a graduate student was a goal I had worked towards for 10 years. I worked through my illness and the relationships it strained, my undergrad, the death of my father and then most recently, the death of my mother a week I actually started grad school. Thanks to terminal gastric cancer I saw her starve to death. I didn’t have the time to work through her death, it’s something I confronted alone. It’s remains a series of events which I have difficulty parsing, it wasn’t black and white, but if I were to summarize it broadly, I felt abandoned to to the proceedings by both friends and family.
There’s an ocean that exists between what I wrote above, where I started, and what would have followed my previous title. I suppose it could do me some good to elaborate on that how one lead to the other. It’s definitely not a straight line and I always struggled with attributing blame. If I can still call myself a sociologist, and I would very much like to, declaring the individual or the group more responsible than the other is, difficult. But the truth of it is that I feel I can make a compelling argument that everyone from the department of sociology at Carleton is responsible for my suicide. I can also make the case that they’re innocent. The conclusion is contingent on the perspective you choose to embody, what you choose to foreground and background. The truth, whatever that is, is probably somewhere in the middle.
Carleton University’s more obvious failures lie in both formal and informal attitudes, policies, and structures which effect mental health within academia. It won’t be controversial for me to argue that academia, especially graduate school, is vicious. However, Carleton’s failures are exponentially worse any other I’ve had the pleasure of being subject to at either Queen’s or McGill university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar (type 1) in 2003 and since then I’ve been forced to spend roughly a year and a half of my life in and out of psychiatric facilities thanks to psychotic breaks and suicide attempts. I’ve spent nearly 20 years navigating mental health services, dismembering my being at the altar of psychiatry. All the while dutifully consuming the feed their medical degrees promised would make me whole again.
Carleton University and the department of Sociology and Anthropology can talk a good game, I’ll give them that. But out of everything that I’ve lived through, I can say with confidence that their commitment is shallow at best. They fucked up. They continue to fuck up, and I’m going to lay it out.