In my time at The Daily Texan, I’ve constantly dealt with abusive trolls attacking my ideas. In my first month, I wrote a column dealing with the environmental costs of climate change. One commenter suggested I kill myself to cut down on emissions.
While I usually take those remarks in stride, I don’t always possess that strength. Last weekend, a longtime troll responded to a tweet of mine about the Republican debate by telling me to “go grab a rope, find a high ceiling fan and a chair” and “go make the world a better place.”
I consider myself lucky to have been in good company that night. In my yearslong battle with depression, I had never encountered an event I was less ready for.
To call every day a battle is to wear out a cliché that tells individuals struggling to make it through that which they might lose. Every day is a hill. Some hills are taller than others, and I have not had the right gear every day.
If I’ve learned anything since beginning my walk, it’s that I cannot drag myself uphill. Depression can never be fought entirely alone. Even worse, it makes reaching for help all the harder.
The summer after my freshman year of college, I almost failed to make it up that hill. I found myself suffering from a panic attack at my parents’ home, miles from anyone I knew, while my parents were out of the country. For nearly a week, my thoughts raced while I sat perfectly still for hours on end.
I count that summer as a victory. From the lowest point that I can remember, I forced myself to climb upward day by day. I continue to walk on today.
Depression is no constant. I’ve gone months without issue to collapse, inconsolable. I’ve learned that I have to acknowledge its looming risks in a proactive manner but also that each challenge will be different from the last. What brings me down next time will probably be something I’ve never seen before.
Such an emotionally complex problem does not necessarily have to have complex roots and solutions. Researchers consistently find that subtle changes in policy affect suicide rates greatly. Access to lethal force — say, a gun — makes an individual more likely to successfully commit suicide.
On the flipside, individuals with greater support from their families are less likely to commit suicide. Studies show that family acceptance is a strong predictor of mental health consequences among LGBT youth.
Even worse, studies suggest that suicides seem to have a domino effect, making others in danger more likely to commit self-harm. When a dear friend of mine recently wrote about her struggle with depression, she identified the suicide of an athlete at the University of Pennsylvania as impacting her greatly, even after she was seeking help.
These studies, taken together, paint a picture of suicide not as a tragic, unpreventable event, but as something that can and should be stopped.
Beyond sweeping policy change, individuals need to take seriously how much they can help their friends in their climbs. Having a strong support group was a luxury I did not have for years, but as I’ve fought through some of my most difficult days, I’ve found it to be something I’ve needed to build more and more.
If your friends show any signs of withdrawing, reach out. It might just save a life.
Chase is a Plan II junior from Royse City. He is an Associate Editor. Follow Chase on Twitter @alexwchase.
On Thursday, Gun-Free UT held a rally on the Main Mall protesting campus carry, which was widely attended by professors and corresponded with a recent petition by professors banning guns from their classrooms. It was countered by a protest by members of College Republicans and Young Conservatives. Although well-intentioned, the Gun-Free rally missed a crucial point in this issue: Campus carry is coming and has a firm Aug. 1, 2016 arrival date. The time for all-out protest came and went, long ago.
Some Gun-Free UT rally attendees expressed hope that the demonstration would inspire administrators to change the law. While the rally will surely inspire some response from some governing agency, and although administrators have parroted nearly unanimous opposition to the absurd law, it is not within their power to dictate the law. If Gun-Free attendees wish to influence the implementation of campus carry at UT, the first step is recognizing that the battle over campus carry is over, and frankly, the entire campus population opposed to campus carry lost their chance.
The inevitability of campus carry’s implementation has not be open to debate since Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law in June, but the battle may have ended even before that. Campus carry has been a hot-button topic for months in Texas, the fifth state to legalize concealed carry on college campuses. Texas experienced a Republican sweep in the 2014 election. In the Tea Party era, once-moderate politicians and leaders have flocked to the poles of their respective parties, because primary voting bases largely consist of the party’s most radical. In many ways, students gave this decision away nearly a year ago when they decided not to turn out on Election Day.
This does not mean that students, faculty and staff members did not have every opportunity to prevent the passage of this bill between Election Day and Abbott’s signature. Between social media campaigns from student activist groups, a petition signed by student leaders from across the state and one poorly attended campus rally in April, Longhorns tried to block the legislation — it just didn’t become a popular cause until it was too late.
Administrators cannot retroactively block campus carry, and professors cannot personally prevent firearms in the classroom, like they say they will — because campus carry is the law now.
I am as unhappy about it as any rally attendee. I am also completely supportive of campus engagement as the working group deliberates on this issue. But if the law’s opponents want to make an impact on the implementation of campus carry at UT, they need to stop fooling themselves that this law is presently reversible, and they need to devote their presence to the working group’s public forums first and foremost.
Smith is a history and humanities senior from Austin. She is the editor-in-chief. Follow her on Twitter @claireseysmith.
According to the results of a survey released last month by the Association of American Universities, roughly one in four women will experience sexual assault during their time in college and one in five women at UT.
That’s deeply troubling. But what’s almost as troubling is that, because of the survey’s limitations, we still know next to nothing about what sexual assault looks like at UT — meaning that we also know next to nothing about how to prevent it.
The survey did include some useful details. For instance, it’s helpful for law enforcement to know that sexual assaults are more likely to occur off-campus. But for the UT System’s four-year study to provide more specific results, it needs to revise the AAU’s methodology.
Despite its large sample size, the AAU survey still doesn’t tell us how many students are actually victims of sexual assault. As President Greg Fenves wrote in an email to the student body following the survey’s publication, even one assault is intolerable. But any self-reported study, especially one with an abysmal 13 percent response rate, will be distorted by sampling bias, perhaps even beyond the point of reliability.
There are two simple approaches through which UT could address that problem. The first is to select a random sample of students, then collect enough demographic information to draw helpful conclusions from the data, including breakdowns based on race, age, classification and Greek affiliation. Alternatively, the University could make the survey mandatory by tying its completion to a student’s registration status, as it does with the “Know Your Line” safety module that freshmen must complete.
The AAU survey gave us the most comprehensive evidence yet that sexual assault is a major problem on college campuses. The UT System will do its students a disservice if it merely parrots that result, without shedding light on any potential solutions.
Shenhar is a Plan II, economics and government junior from Westport, Connecticut. He is an Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter @jshenhar.
Opposite sides of the spectrum of the discussion on police brutality were represented by two rallies held in downtown Austin on Sept. 19 — Police Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter. In order to understand the clashing of these two affiliations, one must know what they stand for. Black Lives Matter is a community-driven movement created to battle anti-black racism, as well as peacefully revolt against the disproportionate amount of police violence toward blacks. Police Lives Matter is a movement created to “highlight all the good that goes into protecting and serving,” but is rooted in complacency and undermines black activists.
BLM gained traction following the shooting death of unarmed Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson. Since then, protests have erupted across the country following police killings of other unarmed black people, including Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Larry Jackson Jr., John Crawford and Freddie Gray.
Fundamentally, BLM intends to hold police accountable for mistreating black people, along with battling other forms of anti-black racism.The Washington Post’s interactive database tracking police killings by gunfire, which the FBI admitted to improperly counting, is crucial accountability that exists because of BLM and other awareness initiatives.
Furthermore, BLM’s grievances are not without statistical reinforcement. Black men are seven times more likely to be shot dead by police while unarmed than white men. As of 2013, 90 percent of those stopped-and-frisked by the NYPD were black or Hispanic, with 11.1 percent resulting in an arrest. Prison sentences for black men were 20 percent longer than white men with similar crimes. This blatant racial discrimination in the police and justice systems is what BLM wants to end.
These statistics are only a small part of why “black lives matter” is a phrase every American needs to hear.
The PLM Facebook page states “Police Lives Matter because All Lives Matter.” Much of the page’s dialogue operates around police safety and the debunked “War on Cops,” although felonious deaths of officers has been the lowest in decades. Simultaneously, police are killing civilians at outrageous speeds, and at a staggeringly higher rate than other developed countries. The page makes no attempt to acknowledge the police’s discriminatory track record.
Movements like PLM, phrased identically to BLM as a means of contradiction, cloud the accountability black activists have worked to advance. When there is irrefutable documentation of harassment and violence against the black people officers are sworn in to protect, blind praise is the antithesis of a solution.
BLM asking for their verifiable concerns to be acknowledged, as well as humanity, should not be controversial.
Supporting police without criticising their oppression of black people proves what BLM has been saying from the beginning: Too many do not care about black lives. This isn’t the first time a group has attempted to disenfranchise black civil rights movements. To support BLM is to be on the right side of history.
Hamze is an international relations and global studies junior from Austin. He is an Associate Editor. Follow Hamze on Twitter @adamhamz.