A year ago today, Andre Narcisse ’12 did not wake up from Halloween night. As news of his passing spread, we were left in silence and shock. It was only thanks to an outpouring of remembrance and friendship that in the following days we were able to pull together. A year later, we still have few answers, besides the medical examiner’s brief line: “multiple drug toxicity.”
But perhaps today, as we look back on Yale’s profound loss, we should take an honest look at the pressures with which we contend; how well we support one another, in good times and bad; and finally, how well our school supports us, the students in its care. We come together after tragedies, with vigils and pledges; but what about beforehand? Has enough changed in a year? Has anything? We must ask these questions because last year’s tragedy may not be an entirely isolated incident.
We Yalies will never be strangers to stress, nor to the emotional anxiety that can turn us to drink, drugs or worse. But at Yale — a college that puts a premium on positivity, self-sufficiency and overachievement — we are afraid to share, to show weakness. As calendar slots fill and midterm essays show no pity, we are tempted to suffer alone. Beyond our social and academic whirlwind, these are years of deeply personal change: of self-questioning and doubt. We are less than adults and more than teens: Now is a time of jarring and often painful transition. We should realize that many of us are in the same boat and that needing help is nothing to be ashamed of.
A year later, now is also the time to examine Yale HEALTH’s Department of Mental Health and Counseling, which 48 percent of each class will visit during their four years here. Many suffering students are well served by the department’s help. But some of us are turned off. Others are turned away. Although the department claims that all students should be served within “a few days” of their initial call, for many, wait times are far longer, sometimes months. A Yale College Council poll earlier this year confirmed that only 16 percent of those seeking counseling received an appointment within one or two days; 29 percent said it took them over two weeks. Protecting and fostering mental health will take not only personal friendship, but also professional skill.
This weekend, many of us dressed up, drank too much and acted ghoulishly. Some of us stayed home, suffering with midterms. But now that the haze, academic and alcoholic, is passing, it is time for Yale to remember. And as we remember Andre Narcisse, we should also remember to look after ourselves and our peers: to care about the person behind the position, the name above the grade, the friend, in good times and bad. Our bright college years are often anything but. Growing up at Yale comes at the cost of mistakes, stresses and disappointments. Through traumas as devastating as last Halloween’s, as well as smaller shocks — like this year’s police tasing and misogynistic chanting — we should never forget that we’re in this together: young people riding similar thrills and suffering similar setbacks. We expect a great deal from one another and ourselves: sometimes, too much. Inevitably, we will fail. And inevitably, we will suffer. This we cannot change. But we can commit to stand by one another when stresses are high and disappointments mount. We can be a community that not only revels in our successes, but also supports each other in our suffering, as we did so well a year ago.