Many people battle with mental health issues without seeking help. Some may not do it for fear of stigmatization and others may have tried to reach out and ask for help only to be told that their problems are trivial. Saying that to someone with mental health battles can break their soul, leading to some grave consequences. Something similar happened at one of Pakistan’s leading universities, recently, that has caused the student body to take a stand and actually seek for reliable solutions.
LUMS administration, like most colleges, has been apathetic to the problems students face in high pressure academic environments, as this one case depicts
This lack of support leads to serious mental health issues that are often not dealt with properly. The Disciplinary Committee, that deals with students who have been accused of violations of campus rules, academic and non academic, has also been accused of making decisions without taking into account student profiles which adds to the stress students experience in such competitive environments.
A recent death of a student, linked to the mental pressures that student faced on campus, has caused an uproar about how the University shows a lack of respect to the problems its students face
This issue came to light recently when students spoke about the ignorance of the administration regarding a student’s death in November 2016. According to unconfirmed sources this death was directly linked to a history of mental health issues the deceased faced which were not addressed properly when the deceased sought help from university staff, aggravating the student’s condition.
The administration was unwilling to acknowledge responsibility for the student’s death stating that the student had withdrawn from LUMS at the time they died.
However, the faculty and student body is outraged at the lack of empathy shown by LUMS in this matter. A memorial was held in order to honor the student’s memory among friends and teachers followed by an open house session with the administration to address the matter.
There is also a letter that the LUMS Alumni Association has sent, a copy of which is with MangoBaaz. The said letter is said to have been acknowledged by the Dean of the Office of Student Affairs, Mr. Yasser Hashmi.
During a session on the administration’s contribution in the deceased student’s health issues, the administration was unable to provide valid answers to explain their negligence in addressing the student’s pleas for help
Other issues were highlighted within the session like the lack of medical facilities provided on campus that has also contributed in students with serious medical conditions being put in jeopardy. This was mentioned with regards to the death of another student in September 2017 who had a history of brain aneurysms and died from a brain hemorrhage.
LUMS relies entirely on a student-run organization to cater to medical emergencies which is highly irresponsible considering that the student-run organization does not have any qualified doctors or nurses on staff, not is there any ambulance service to cater to such incidents.
Several students also raised concerns about the university’s Disciplinary Committee adding to serious mental pressure by making decisions that are arbitrary
The faculty, alumni and the students have been pressuring the administration to bring policy changes that positively affect the relationship between the administration and the student body.
A faculty member also spoke about the lack of protocol they have when serving on the committee at the student’s memorial. The faculty member refused to speak on record.
After demands for a formal inquiry from the faculty and student body about the events that led up to the student’s death, LUMS administration has formed an inquiry committee
The seven member committee to inquire into the death of the student was formed on October 6, 2017 and a notification was circulated among the LUMS community. According to the notification, the committee will inquire into the sad demise of the said student and look for possible “support mechanism and the way forward”.
Further, it took such a massive uproar and backlash from students and faculty for LUMS management to have an ambulance on campus. The office of General Administration and Services announced that an ambulance is going to be available at one of the university’s gates, round the clock, for medical emergencies. This announcement was made on October 6, 2017.
A condolence email, one that had not been sent at the time of the student’s death in November 2016, was sent out earlier on Wednesday, October 4, 2017 to the LUMS community.
This incident at LUMS raises concerns regarding mental health awareness and the lack of proper support network in academic institutions in Pakistan, regarding mental health issues
Students should, at least, have access to qualified mental health practitioners who can help them cope with academic and personal pressures while also providing a safe space for them to talk about their issues without fear of repercussions or trivialization of their concerns.
Faculty and students should be trained with regular workshops and seminars to become trained in noticing red flags in student behaviors. Such workshops can help people beyond just their academic community by equipping them to be empathetic toward noticing signs of distress even outside their institutions.
Cover image via: newsweek.com