On January 25, 2015, Luchang Wang swiped into her residential college at Yale for the last time. It was a Sunday—a day that many Yale students spend in the library, stressed as they prepare for the week ahead. At some point in the next two days, Wang, a sophomore math major, left New Haven and boarded a plane for San Francisco, using a one-way ticket she had ordered online. She would not be coming back. At 1:26 p.m. on Tuesday, January 27, Wang posted a worrying status on Facebook that sent students and administrators frantically searching for her whereabouts. It read, in part:
Dear Yale: I loved being here. I only wish I could’ve had some time. I needed time to work things out and to wait for new medication to kick in, but I couldn’t do it in school, and I couldn’t bear the thought of having to leave for a full year, or of leaving and never being readmitted. Love, Luchang.
About five hours later, Jonathan Holloway, the dean of Yale College, informed the school via email that Wang had died in "an apparent suicide." A subsequent report by the Yale Daily News stated that a "despondent female" had jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco Bay. Although a backpack left on the bridge appeared to belong to Wang, the California Coast Guard couldn’t recover a body and thus couldn’t confirm that she had jumped. Remembered for her compassion, she was 20 years old.
In the weeks following Wang’s death, Yale students have expressed grief and frustration—the latter because of the school’s withdrawal and readmission policies. These policies, some say, make it especially difficult for students with mental-health issues to feel comfortable leaving campus, even when taking time off from school may improve their wellbeing. According to several Yale undergraduates, some of whom asked for anonymity, there is a significant fear on campus that the administration will force mentally ill students to leave; there’s also a related fear that sick students will not be allowed to return. As a result, students suffering from anxiety, depression, and other disorders may not be getting the treatment they need. And for many of those who are, the question soon becomes: "How much should I open up?"