I've lost track of the number of distressed students I've talked to in 34 years at Fresno State. Chronic depression was most common. Students with bipolar disease and substance abuse problems have appeared in my office.
Rarely, students have been openly disruptive to the whole building and several departments have dealt with someone struggling to cope with life. Students have been affected by deaths, rape, sexual abuse, murder. I've talked to them all.
University students are a sample of society. All of life's problems happen here, too.
I've spent hours talking with students, trying to gain their trust so that they would accept my advice for professional help. It is frightening when a student seems close to suicide. For some reason, I was the person they chose to talk to. Perhaps I was just there. Eventually, students sought the help they needed.
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I've been fortunate. I've never had to deal with a student as severely disturbed as Cho Seung-Hui at Virginia Tech.
Last week I got an e-mail from a formerly depressed student whom I befriended years ago. They have a family and a successful job. They just wanted to thank me. It doesn't always end with tragedy.
Department of Biology
California State University, Fresno