Student’s Anonymous Suicide Threat

Ana Gore

During fifth period on Friday, February 21, Dr. Kenner made an announcement over the intercom that a student had made an anonymous note, threatening to “call it quits.” She asked that the student would come to the main office and said that they’d help connect the student to the help that they need.


It has been said that the note was anonymously written on the inside of an art exhibition in green house, which is called “the Happy Place.” The outside of the installation is covered in yellow paper. The artists left markers so that people can write the things they love about themselves. Some of the notes included “my gay!” and “my friends”, but other notes that were written on the outside were marked out in black marker.


The inside represents people’s biggest fears, which the artists wrote based on submissions they got. That being said, artists asked that people wouldn’t write new things on the inside. The anonymous note is said to be a suicide threat, but the door of “the Happy Place” has since been locked.


An email was sent out afterwards to tell those on the Whitney Young email list that the author of the note was considering self-harm, but that nobody has claimed ownership of the note.


It is widely understood that many Whitney Young students struggle with mental health. The pressure at selective enrollment schools can be immense. But what many don’t realize is how large the problem really is.


In an unofficial poll, 80% of students here said they have struggled with mental health. Out of those students, 82% said that they found that administration was not helpful.


Some counselors are helpful as far as having someone to talk to, but many students aren’t even aware that the school has a psychologist. In fact, in the aforementioned poll, 66% of students said they didn’t know that Whitney Young had a school psychologist.


Counselors and psychologists fall under Whitney Young’s student outreach services. Their vision statement claims that “The vision of our Student Outreach Services is to create a foundation of mental-health resources and to raise health awareness for our school community.”


That being said, the student outreach services website hasn’t been updated in several years, and some of the counselors that it lists left up to five years ago.


This has led to a feelling that  many Whitney Young students don’t feel heard when it comes to their mental health concerns.


One sophomore who requested to remain anonymous said “Honestly I feel like keeping it all to yourself and holding onto the pain is a lot better than opening up. Nobody can help and it makes situations worse…”


Another concern that came up was about the senior attendance policy and the ways in which that negatively affects the mental health of seniors.


Sarah Chavez, ‘20 said “I feel like the attendance policy makes anxiety worse…I am very concerned about how many days I missed and how many I have left and what counts and what doesn’t.”


In the January 19, 2020 Whitney Young Weekly, Dr. Joyce Kenner (principal) said students shouldn’t be allowed personal days because “There still is a difference between a teacher and a student. Please wait your turn. Age is nothing we can stop! All seriousness – teachers earn personal days each year based on their negotiated contract. Students are not in a union, thus do not have any negotiating rights. State law also dictates student attendance requirements.”


Although the final point is more valid, the rest of her statement disregards the fact that being young does not make a person  invincible. In many cases, being young has made us quite vulnerable to the pressures being placed upon us.


As Ari Karafiol, ‘20 said “[being] high performing doesn’t mean you’re ok.”


There is a systematic problem with the way that the school culture, school administration, and teachers handle the mental health of students. Although many teachers would likely consider themselves to be positive toward mental health, the amount of work that students get from teachers is often a large part of mental health issues.


An anonymous Niche review from a former student said “The education was great, it was just an overwhelming amount of pressure, on my first day the principal said she expected nothing less than straight As from all of us. I knew people who went to the hospital because of stress, and the school barely offered any help. They care more about their image than their students’ well-being. When I felt unsafe there, I was ignored by teachers and some administration actively lied to my parents and I.”


The traumatic tales of Whitney Young students go on and on and the pressure of the school is often insurmountable.