Mental health is our Vietnam

April 2, 2015, 8:43 p.m.

For the first time since the Vietnam War, college students are facing a crisis of life and death for themselves and their peers: depression.

Depression is depriving our generation of some of its best, brightest and, most importantly, kindest people. It affects all of us. Every year that goes by, more people I know and care about try to take their own life. Every time we lose or come close to losing a friend, it gets harder to get through our own challenges.

I haven’t seen my best friend in almost 16 months. I worry about the mental health of two of the most important people in my life pretty much every day. And there are countless others who I love but only rarely — if ever — let their friends in on their struggles. Every finals week drives another block of students closer to the edge.

How many lives are too many to lose before we stand up and say enough is enough? Reading Ivan Maisel’s eulogy for his son, Max, this week was my tipping point.

Ivan tells the story of Charlie Chaplin’s improvement on the “classic visual joke of a man and a banana peel.” As the audience sees the man approaching the danger of the banana peel, tension builds. But right before stepping on the peel, he steps to the side to avoid the danger, and ends up right in an open manhole.

“I always thought, if we can get Max through the hell of high school,” Maisel writes, “he will go to college, find himself, find his people and he will blossom. Max began to find himself. He found his people. And he stepped right into a manhole.”

College is a world of opportunity, and Stanford gave me more great opportunities and happy moments than I could have ever imagined. But college is also that manhole. I know you Stanford students see it, and I know it might feel like so few others do — adults, please stop with the “your worst day of college is better than your best day on the job” routine — so you have to be the ones to act.

Don’t stop kicking and screaming until CAPS is fully funded and can meet the ever-increasing counseling needs of the student body. There is not a single more important arm of this university so dramatically underfunded right now.

Find student leadership that can have tough conversations with faculty about reducing some of the absurd workloads students can get stuck with. The hazing generation is over — it has caused too much damage to people we love.

Most importantly, never be afraid to ask for help. If you have the courage, be open about your struggles and how you sought out help to get better. You can save those who are hurting too badly to build up the confidence to seek help.

This has been a year of friction at Stanford, around the country and around the world. But when it comes to the mental health of Stanford students, the student body can rally as one.

We need to fight for our friends.

Sam Fisher ’14, former Daily Managing Editor of Sports

Contact Sam Fisher at samfisher908 ‘at’

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