How to Pass the Time when You’re Waiting To Hear That Your Student Is Not Dead…


“I want to die! I want to die!” is not the first thing you want to read in your Monday morning email. Especially when the email was sent at 2:24 am on Saturday, a day you don’t work nor check email. Boundaries are super important in this job, and I make sure to live up to the boundaries that I set with my students. This isn’t the 24/7 crisis work that I used to do, and technically I am not even acting in the counseling capacity for my students, but when I read an email like that my heart skips a beat (or 12).

Because I care a great deal about students, and I also take suicidal ideation seriously.

I know, as a mental health counselor, that there is a difference between wanting to die and wanting to kill myself but without the ability to do a face-to-face assessment I cannot determine the level of threat in this email. And with a student not responding to my response email(s) or phone call, I am left in the emotional lurch.

Tomorrow, at noon, I will put a welfare check out on this student, per the college’s recommendation. But, in the meantime, my heart feels bound up and my normally boundaries-of-steel are crumbling into an almost state of panic.

I’ve never lost a student to suicide. I am frank in my lectures and in my last assessment with the student I am confident they were in a depressed state but had no suicide ideation, let alone any means or plan. I am confident in that. And yet…and yet…that email…and how quickly things can spiral.

In the meantime, while I wait for that return email, or that police knock on their door, I am drinking beer and folding underwear. Because nothing puts the world at ease like sorting panties into sexy and period piles on my coffee table. I have to live this way, one foot in front of the other…focus on the mundane, the real, the things I can control right now.

And wait.

Waiting is the hardest part.

And for those of you that vibe or shake or pray or drum or send good thoughts…you wanna send them my student’s way?

Thanks.

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