This past summer, my fellow students and I at the University at Buffalo School of Law were devastated to learn that one of our own, Matt Benedict, had taken his own life.
Although I didn’t know him well, I know the academic pressures law students face. According to the Dave Nee Foundation, law students begin school with average depression rates of 8-9%, but after three years, depression rates more than quadruple to 40%. No one should feel alone.
Solutions for mental illness must extend beyond therapy and medication. Food insecurity, health concerns and financial situations are both causes and effects of mental illness. It’s hard for students to manage mental health when they can’t obtain basic needs. Mental illness makes it more difficult for students facing challenges such as managing internships along with schoolwork, or finding the time and energy to cook healthy meals at home.
Many students don’t know that UB offers several free resources. This includes Blue Table, a grocery service for students facing food insecurity, as well as an emergency fund, which provides gifts of up to $400 for students facing unexpected situations, such as paying for repairs after a car accident. UB also offers nutritionist services, chiropractic care, and food pantry access. Those suffering from seasonal affective disorder during winter months can rent light therapy lamps.
This is a problem facing our whole community and not just UB. Those interested in helping can donate to Matthew Benedict’s One Last Goal endowment fund, which is helping students and athletes manage mental illnesses through education and awareness. To quote Matt’s blog, “Start the conversation. No more hiding. No more silence. Speak up. Reach out. Tell people you love them. Make the community and the world a better place.”