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Northern Michigan University Is Actually Threatening to Punish Students Who Talk About Suicidal Thoughts

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Northern Michigan University has a bizarre policy that actually tells students they can get in trouble for talking to friends about suicidal thoughts, Science of Us reports. One example of the policy in action is the case of Katerina Klawes, an NMU student who sought conseling after being sexually assaulted in 2014. She was apparently told by the associate dean of students that “if you involve other students in suicidal or self-destructive thoughts or actions you will face disciplinary action.”

The dean, Mary Brundage, emailed Klawes shortly after she met with school counselors, warning her that, “engaging in any discussion of suicidal or self-destructive thoughts or actions with other students interferes with, or can hinder, their pursuit of education and community,” according to Science of US.

“My hope is that, knowing exactly what could result in discipline, you can avoid putting yourself in that position,” Brundage continued.

When Klawes responded with concerned confusion, Brundage reiterated, “You can certainly talk to your friends about how you are doing in general and set their minds at ease. You cannot discuss with other students suicidal or self-destructive thoughts or actions. It is a very specific limitation.” Klawes thought it was odd to receive this message, especially considering that she hadn’t even said anything in counseling about being “self-destructive"—but she isn’t the only student who has gotten this message from NMU.

After an investigation by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), it was found that the University had sent similar messages to “as many as 25 to 30 students each semester,” according to Complex.

Dozens of medical and psychological professions have discussed how harmful this policy could be to students in similar positions to Klawes. Victor Schwartz, medical director at the JED Foundation, told Science of Us, “There are two very serious problems with this approach. First is the degree to which this directly stigmatizes students with emotional problems—can you think of a comparable situation in which a student with medical illness would be prohibited from talking to others about it?”

“This policy conveys to the student that they are 'evil' or a pariah in some way by virtue of having these feelings/thoughts,” Schwartz continued.

While students have expressed concern over this issue, and NMU has acknowledged their complaints, it doesn’t look like anything will be changing any time soon.


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