Let’s Be Conscious of How We Treat One Another

At Denison, I am saddened to see how the overall reactions to Tianyue Li, who died on campus on Tuesday, March 12 from an apparent suicide as the Granville City Police reported, Sean Bonner during the fall 2018 semester and less recently, Wendell Jackson in 2015 and mental health have turned into not a conversation of progress, but students pointing fingers at one another to blame for these issues.

I was one of the collaborative group of students who started the “#EyesOnDenison,” which included a graphic of eyes that was reposted on over 100 Denison student’s Instagram stories and by students on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms on Wednesday, March 13. The hashtag came from multiple people wanting to start a conversation. Along with the hashtag, there was a banner hung up inside Slayter Student Union, right where everyone could see near the front doors, holding the opinions and thoughts of multiple anonymous Denison students. The banners were placed outside for people to walk by and contribute to as they pleased as one of the many ways people have been coping on campus.

 

(Photo courtesy of Paula Torres ‘22)

Regarding the poster, it began with a conversation that took place in Slayter Union at 12 pm. that day, which included students and faculty with different identities, viewpoints, socioeconomic classes and backgrounds all wanted to contribute to the conversation around mental health.

At the meeting, which lasted around two hours, students and faculty concluded that mental health awareness and eradication of stigma is not primarily a Denison issue. It’s an issue on college campuses, workplaces, and communities across the nation.

With that said, the group discussed the multiple factors that can lead to stress, anger, isolation, loneliness and more that can contribute to suicidal thoughts.

There is a lot of emotions at this moment, and all of them are valid. However, some students reacted to this conversation with more ridicule than compassion for the different ways that people cope. Some didn’t enjoy the “#EyesOnDenison” due to the hashtag’s apparent lack of acknowledgment of the strides that Denison University has made regarding mental health.

In response to that, I will say this: we can give credit to the university where it’s due. But, there is always room to improve, and if Denison is more catered to a specific group of people, then that’s an issue that needs to be addressed along with campus culture and attitude.

Others who were close to Tianyue Li expressed worry that the movement was too soon after Tianyue’s passing, which is completely valid. They worried that she would be turned into a martyr if associated with the poster and conversation. The poster was later taken down due to Tianyue Li’s parent’s impending arrival to campus.

 

In a Tweet on the night of the 13, I expressed these thoughts regarding the poster, hashtag, and Tianyue:

 

With that, I will end this article with this: we don’t want to make the conversation around mental health to be about only the people who are gone. It isn’t about that. It’s about making things better for the people who are still here while honoring the memories of those who have passed. Hopefully, after spring break, this can be accomplished with thoughtfulness, understanding, and compassion toward our peers, faculty and Denison staff members.