My name is Benjamin McAfee and I graduated from Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service in 2012. You are not alone. I experienced several issues at CAPS as well, and it is important for us to be critical of the resources offered by Georgetown in order to improve the mental health outcomes for students at our institution. When I took a leave of absence, I thought it was the end of the world. However, I realized this medical leave of absence allowed me to not only learn more about myself, but also give me insight into how to manage my bipolar disorder.
Many students at Georgetown who came out to me about their mental health conditions could not afford treatment. In fact, one person in particular had to drop out of Georgetown and, because she was unable to find adequate resources and a good therapist and psychiatrist at home, she never came back. Having access to mental health providers is imperative for one to be re-admitted into Georgetown, and if he or she does not have the financial resources, then the individual is out of luck and will most likely not be able to return.
Whenever I experienced suicidal ideations due to my chemical imbalance, I made sure to talk to my dean and seek help from my peers at Georgetown. My dean was able to speak on my behalf and email professors without having to disclose specifics about my mental health condition. Faculty members were also very supportive. They want their students to succeed, and letting your professors know ahead of time that you may experience certain challenges can benefit you in the long run.
My psychiatrist was often unresponsive. I had to make frequent emergency visits at CAPS, and thankfully, I experienced a quick turn-a-round from CAPS. However, I still had to find the right psychiatrist and therapist that suited my needs. This can definitely be a difficult task if you are just given referrals and have never sought out treatment for a mental health condition.
Academics can also be very challenging at Georgetown. I had to do an extra year so that I could finish all of my classes. The side effects of my medication were, on occasion, unpredictable. The anti-psychotic drug I take can cause sleep paralysis. I spoke to my psychiatrist and he prescribed Lunesta to aid my sleep. Needless to say, I slept for seventeen-hours straight; it was the best sleep I have ever had in my life. However, I had given myself two days to prepare for a presentation class in my Human Rights Seminar focusing on Latin America, and due to my excessive sleepiness, I received a lower grade. I instantly stopped taking Lunesta, yet, this was indicative of my experience at Georgetown.
Life after Georgetown has been more stabilizing. College is a stressful environment, and that stress can trigger many episodes. Post-graduation, I have decided to pursue a profession in the mental health field. I worked at Mental Health America, and through my efforts with them, I was able to meet with Demi Lovato on her Mental Health Listening Engagement Tour. I have also been to various campuses to discuss challenges with mental health in college. My big project is my organization called My Campus Health. MyCampusHealth.com is an online platform that addresses needs of college students challenged by mental health disorders and other disabilities. This site gives you the opportunity to share your own personal narrative and learn from the experiences of others. More than eighteen diverse contributors have shared their personal experiences with mental health on My Campus Health. This website has the potential to be a unique vehicle for change on college campuses as a central place where students can find information about academic and psychiatric centers within their own universities. Parents, alumni, allies and faculty members can contribute and register on the website. A forum exists for users, divided by categories pertaining to universities, disorders, gender, sexual orientation, veteran status and allies. This feature is unique from other websites because users can post discussions about their own personal interests without having to share personally identifiable information.
If anyone is interested in contributing, I would love to hear from you at [email protected]! Improving Georgetown’s approach to mental health can be done by sharing your story. Whether it is anonymous or in person, or you have had a positive or negative experience, together, we can make a difference at Georgetown.
Benjamin McAfee graduated from the School of Foreign Service in 2012.