Part 3, Bullying: Carleton University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology Mental Health Failures and my Suicide Attempt.
Bullying was another problem I encountered as a graduate student at Carleton University. In addition to struggling to receive support through Carleton University’s mental health support resources. On top of professors and fellow graduate students openly discriminating against Quebec, accusing Quebecers of being racist for protecting their language from English’ cultural hegemony in North America and the apathetic responses I received when I expressed my frustration.
Beyond these specific experiences, the accepted exploitation of graduate students within a “publish or perish” atmosphere nurtured a toxic and hostile work environment within the department of sociology and anthropology.
There is one experience which stands out. I had thought I made a good friend of Zoey Jones, a PhD Sociology student at the time. We had made a habit of studying together at local coffee shops and for once I thought things might be looking up. Here is a timeline of events that proved me wrong.
- Zoey expresses a desire to pursue a relationship with me. I did not reciprocate. I wasn’t interested in pursuing a relationship with someone within the department, I wanted to avoid the pitfalls often associated with “inter-office” relationships. We continued to discuss our experiences with dating apps and the like.
- In 2015, the eight year relationship I was in ended abruptly. I was struggling with bipolar disorder before and after. I attempted to take my own life and I was committed for roughly ~3 months in a psychiatric facility. It was a traumatic experience. The woman I was with was Chinese and since then I avoided initiating dates with Chinese women because it brought that trauma back to the forefront. I did not avoid dating other Asian ethnic groups, nor did this impact platonic friendship.
- One day I was swiping through Tinder and came across the profile of a Chinese woman who seemed interesting and I swiped right without a second thought. At that moment I realized that I had overcome that trauma. I was beyond happy.
- I was scheduled to meet up with Zoey later that day and I happily shared this news with her.
- She immediately accused me of being racist. I tried to explain to her how she was wrong, she persisted. She ended up sending me numerous messages doubling down on her assessment that I was racist, eventually sending me a website whose general theme was something along the lines of “what to do when you discover you’re racist”.
- I broke off communication.
These events further isolated me. One of the only social experiences I had at the time was with the department softball team, which Zoey was a part of. I didn’t want to risk confrontation or further alienation, I stopped attending.
Being publicly accused of being racist in a department or Sociology and Anthropology will not have a positive impact on your career. Combine this with the general idea that the department held, that Quebecers are racist to begin with, in addition to the inaction of the faculty when I expressed my frustration with these unfair characterisations, it seemed clear to me that no one would take my side or defend me.
My mental state deteriorated further, and my suicidal ideation strengthened.