MSVU ‘very sorry’ student felt isolated because of wellness agreement

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Change could soon be coming to Mount Saint Vincent University. The school has promised to review and modify its wellness agreement. Global’s Steve Silva reports – May 17, 2016

Mount Saint Vincent University is promising to review and modify an agreement that stipulated a student couldn’t tell other students in residence he was suicidal.

However, the university has not said the rule will be removed.

“I am very sorry and genuinely sorry that Brody felt isolated,” Paula Barry Mercer, associate vice-president of student experience at the university, said.

Brody Stuart-Verner first told his story to Global News earlier this week. He said he felt “ashamed and embarrassed” by the experience.

On Monday, Barry Mercer said language in the agreement would be clarified.

On Tuesday, the day after the initial story aired, the university announced the agreement would be reviewed and modified with input from the students’ union, residence administration and mental health professionals, among others.

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“I feel like that’s incredible,” Stuart-Verner said over Skype from Charlottetown. “And I hope they do that promptly, and I hope they get at it right away because I don’t want to see anybody go through the same situation that I had to go through this past year.”

Barry Mercer said the new agreement will be finalized in time for the next academic year and it may keep the rule as is, get rid of it, or keep parts of it.

“It is all on the table,” she said.

Stuart-Verner said the main issue was that he couldn’t tell close friends he was feeling suicidal.

The rule stipulated he “will not discuss or engage in conversations with residence students regarding personal issues, namely the student’s self-destructive thoughts.”

Barry Mercer said he misinterpreted the rule but wouldn’t explain why.

“If I could explain to you what the circumstances were in this particular case, and who we were concerned about and what our concerns were, I know that you would agree with the rules that we put in place. I can’t explain that to you because I’d be violating Brody’s privacy, which is of utmost importance to us,” she said, adding that the intent of the rule was so that he wouldn’t use friends in place of mental health professionals.

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Stuart-Verner said he did get help from mental health professionals and never used his friends for that purpose.

“That’s complete nonsense. If I was misinterpreting it, I would love for them explain to me how I misinterpreted it because they’ve yet to do that,” he added.

Barry Mercer also confirmed that even if a student with the same wellness agreement stipulation was getting the help of several mental health workers, telling another residence student about having suicidal thoughts would be breaking the rule.

Stuart-Verner may seek legal action.

“We’re seeing what our rights are, we’re seeing what we can do, what we can’t do, and what’s possible,” he said.

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