Yale Student Shares Alarming Story About How The University Deals With Mental Health Issues

Yale University student Rachel Williams felt sane and wanted help, but because she had cut herself and admitted to suicidal thoughts, she says she was forced to withdraw last year with no guarantee of return.

Her brutal essay in the Yale Daily News — titled “We Just Can’t Have You Here” — denounces how mental health problems are handled at the university and speaks to a problem at schools across America.

Williams argues that Yale is too quick to send home students with mental health problems rather than helping them.

“Neither the staff members I spoke with nor a fellow Yalie who had prior experience in the hospital knew of any Yale student admitted to the hospital who had been allowed to stay at Yale,” Williams writes.

Yale has not commented on her article and did not respond to our request for comment.

One of the most unnerving parts of Williams’ essay is her disclosure of how she hurt herself and what happened to her when Yale found out:

On the night of Jan. 27, 2013, I slashed open my right thigh six times with a Swiss Army knife. I then spent four hours thinking about how good it would feel to jump off the fifth floor of Vanderbilt Hall. On Jan. 28, I put on a pretty dress and went to class. Before lunch, my cuts had stained it brown.

That night I texted my Freshman Counselor to tell her what had happened, just as I had done all the other times I felt suicidal and had cut myself. When I went to her suite, I showed her the gashes.

We went to Yale Health Urgent Care, at around 11:00 p.m., where a doctor bandaged my leg. A psychiatrist appeared. I told her that I had experienced suicidal thoughts the night before, but that the cuts had not been a suicide attempt. I told them that I was no longer suicidal.

At midnight, I was strapped to a stretcher under the ashen ceiling of an ambulance, on my way to Yale-New Haven Hospital. There I was taken to the locked ward of the ER — guarded by officers with guns — stripped of all my belongings, including my pants (they had a drawstring), and shunted into a cubicle containing nothing but a bed. I was here for my own good, they told me.

For 24 hours I had nothing to do but listen to the rattling gasping sound coming from the person two beds down, and to a schizophrenic person declare, every hour or so, that he had soiled himself. I was asked to recite the presidents of the United States, in reverse order, as part of a psychiatric evaluation. For more than a day I was not permitted to make a phone call. For more than a day no one had any idea where I was — not even my parents.

After a week in the hospital, Williams was forced to withdraw from Yale, with no idea as to if or when she would be allowed back at school.

One year later, she has been reaccepted and returned to the university.

Read Rachel Williams’ full story at the Yale Daily News »

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