Dear St. Thomas University Community,
We are 4th year gerontology students at St Thomas, currently enrolled in the advanced seminar class required for our major.
Last week our professor, Dr. Linda Caissie, notified us that Mental Health Awareness Day was approaching.
She thought it would be valuable for us to join other faculties in raising awareness about mental health issues experienced by older adults.
We were all eager to contribute, and came up with short passages that we thought might best represent the concerns of the older population. Many other departments also participated, and it was truly refreshing to walk around campus and see everyone doing their part to defeat the stigma of mental illness.
To our dismay, when we met up last night, Dr. Caissie had some disappointing news. When she returned to campus on Monday she noticed that not only had a lot of our posters been torn down, but some had been defaced.
One of our posters read: “Persons aged 40-59 have the highest rates of suicide, which accounts for 1/3 of all suicides”.
Someone had written underneath, “That’s what euthanasia is for.”
This was incredibly saddening to read—it’s hard to believe that someone from the St. Thomas community would be so disrespectful.
Another quote from one of our posters read: “Mental health resources are available at prisons, university and to the general public. But what about nursing homes?”
Again, someone had written underneath: “That’s what euthanasia is for.”
As students of gerontology, we believe people of all ages needed to be represented on Mental Health Awareness Day, as the issue is something that affects everyone, regardless of age, gender or race. The defacing of our posters only reinforces the stigma associated with mental illness. Older adults need their voices to be heard just as much as anyone else, and for someone to suggest euthanasia as the only solution to mental health issues is incredibly disrespectful. The purpose of these posters was to raise awareness about mental health issues faced by older adults and share information with our fellow students. We hoped this project would help diminish the stigma that often prevents people from sharing their experiences or seeking out help. This shameful act only confirmed that we have a long way to go in our pursuit of equality for those struggling with mental health issues. As students of gerontology, we hope the person who wrote these disparaging, cruel statements will take the time to educate themselves on the consequences of spreading such negativity at a time when people need support the most.
The Gero 4023 Class:
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