to whom it may concern;
I don’t know if my non-Canadian blog friends (HI EVERYONE, BY THE WAY) have heard about Nadia Kajouji, an 18-year old university student here in the city, who died as a result of drowning in April. It wasn’t an accident; there was no foul play involved. She did it to herself… and her disappearance and subsequent death shocked a city.
Soon enough there were letters being written, ‘experts’ being consulted, and tv and radio hosts bantering about what exactly went wrong and how best to prevent it from happening again. It, being a suicide of someone suffering from depression.
After a few days of listening to well-intentioned but disconnected Otta-wans, yours truly decided to step in there and have a say; not just because I too am a university student with depression, but to put out there that the so-called ‘solutions’ older generations were calling for were nothing but band-aids – pretty covers that let the problem fester in the dark until resolved on its own. And when it comes to depression; if you let us solve problems on our own, we may just end up dead.
As it turns out, the editor of the Citizen liked my letter SO much that not only was it published (shortened, of course) but my picture was included to draw more and more readers to my opinion.
Therefore, I humbly entrust to you the unabridged version of my now-published opinion.
As a third year nursing student with the University of Ottawa and Algonquin College, I have been receiving medical help for depression which I have suffered for as long as I can remember. Although I have some coverage under the University of Ottawa’s health care plan for full time students, I cannot get my anti-depressant drugs, which cost $250 for two months, under this plan. But unlike many other students, I can still get partially coverage under my parents for my medication as well as paying for them myself through my two part-time jobs. But since my anti-depressant drugs are prescribed by the campus physician, I would think that as a student, I would get coverage under our student plan. Although there are excellent health care providers at each campus, I sit here today because of students like Nadia Kajouji, where help comes too late, or not at all. Counselors are time constrained, work odd hours, and are often not enough for those with depression. In fact, students with official diagnoses are often referred to outside services, which ends up being referred to a waiting list. It’s been over 6 months for me and I’m still waiting. Many may ask why depressed students don’t just go home. I’d like to state that it’s not that simple. Leaving a hospital after surgery doesn’t mean you’re cured; there are still weeks of rehabilitation to follow. Such is that of a person with depression. And going home will not be an instantaneous fix. To go home means that we have failed and that is not something you want to suggest to a person who is struggling with the will to live. Many might ask why Nadia didn’t confide in others about her inner struggles. I would like to state that despite it being 2008, there is still a palpable stigma attached to those with mental illness. We may be seen as weak and emotional. After confessing to our difficulties we may be treated differently, we may be told to suck it up and deal with it, or we may be told that it’s ok to accept defeat. I don’t know about you, but those options are not at all attractive and in no way, shape or form do they make me feel better. I also have friends that I can rely on. But there are many more who are not so lucky. No matter how good a system may be in caring for its own, inevitably there will be some who fall through the cracks. It is my hope that Nadia will have not died in vain, that her struggle and death will serve as a wake up call that more has to be done to prevent further loss of life and hope.