In 2012, 9 percent of Andover’s student body engaged in self-harming behavior. In 2013 this figure grew to 11 percent, and last spring it increased to 13 percent of students. Similarly, the percentage of students with an eating disorder has increased from 12 to 15 percent in the past two years.
Unfortunately, many students who suffer from mental illness hesitate to seek help for fear of being put on a leave of absence and possibly barred from returning to Andover at all.
This notion is not in line with Graham House’s approach to mental health but is in part supported by a section in the 2014-2015 Blue Book that states that “a leave of absence may be required following any situation of egregious or repeated self-injury, including but not limited to drug and alcohol ingestion, a severe eating disorder, or cutting.”
Carol Israel, Director of Counseling at Graham House, however, indicated a clearer approach. “Kids have this idea that everybody is put on leaves,” Israel said in an interview with The Phillipian yesterday. “It’s a very small category of behaviors that trigger [a leave of absence]. It’s a suicide attempt, it’s behavior that could be considered suicidal. It’s not even cutting.”
The expectations articulated in the Blue Book regarding self-harm have convoluted the expectations of students themselves, who hesitate to seek treatment because they are not provided with a clear protocol as to how their problems will be addressed. The consequences of this confusion, a reluctance to trust and approach those who are here to help us, are tragic and completely avoidable.
Graham House policies that address leaves of absence, including the one that Israel articulated, should be made clear to students. While we recognize the need to be flexible in regards to mental health policies, even simple guidelines that articulate how Graham House will respond to general circumstances would greatly benefit the student body. These guidelines should be accessible to students via the Blue Book or Blackboard; perhaps doing so may encourage students to trust Graham House and feel comfortable seeking help there.
This editorial represents the views of _The Phillipian _Editorial Board CXXXVII.