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Students call for mental health support after friend dies

Jeff Courage, 21, died by suicide on Sunday. He was a student at Western University and a member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. His close friends felt that more mental health resources were needed on campus and should have been made more apparent to students.

Friends want more resources available on Western campus after student's death

Jeff Courage was a third year Social Sciences student at Western University. He was from Owen Sound. (Instagram)

Friends and classmates of Jeff Courage are reacting to the news that the third year Social Science student at Western University died by suicide this week. 

Courage, 21, died on Sunday. His family and friends are gathering today for his funeral, with Western lowering the flag on University College in the young student's memory. 

Crisis Help

  • 24/7 Crisis Line (Reach Out): (519) 433-2023
  • Indigenous Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1 (855) 242-3310
  • On Campus: Psychological services  (519) 661-3031
  • On Campus: Student health services  (519) 661-3030

 

"I still to this day, I don't believe it," said Isabel Tansey, a close friend who was visibly shaken but wanted to pay tribute to the young man and call attention to the hidden mental health struggles students face. 

Tansey and another friend Lauren Poelzer have helped create a fundraiser in Courage's name. It's called The Courage Project, a nod to Jeff's family name, with proceeds going to the Canadian Mental Health Association. 

After researching men's mental health stats, Tansey and Poelzer were shocked to find out how high the instances of suicide were among males. 

Lauren Poelzer met Jeff Courage at intramural dodgeball during their first year at Western University. The news of his death was very difficult for her to deal with. (Lauren Poelzer)

They designed t-shirts that have Courage's fraternity initiation number on the arm, the definition of courage on the front and all the letters from the Greek community on campus on the back. 

The definition of the word courage was added as a tribute to their friend. After looking it up online, they knew it would be the best way to pay tribute to who Courage was and how much he meant to them. 

As of Thursday, funds raised had reached $24,000. 

Mental health on campus

At Western University, his reputation was well known. A contagious smile, the goofy guy on the dance floor and the good friend that will be there for everyone whenever they needed it. 

Tansey says that "he was one of those guys that you met and you automatically just became friends."

"He was the type of guy that would genuinely put everything that he had on his plate aside for someone else," says Poelzer. 

The news of Courage's death was unfathomable. It still feels surreal to both young women. 

Both Poelzer and Tansey had been out with Jeff and other friends the night before. They were celebrating the end of initiation week for their respective fraternities and sororities. 

Still, the women say anyone who was close to Jeff knew that he was battling some inner demons.

Call for more support

When they spoke to CBC, Tansey and Poelzer said his death was leading to broader conversations in mental health on campus.

The young women said they were shocked by the number of people in their group who came out to say that they too, were struggling with their mental health. 

Jeff Courage with Isabel Tansey, first from the right, on campus at Western University. (Isabel Tansey)

They say that although there are resources available on campus, many times, those resources will be the last place students look to when they're not feeling well. 

"I think there's a disconnect," says Tansey. "If I, personally, was having a really hard night and it was 12 a.m. or something like that and I needed someone to talk to, the absolute last thing I would think of would be that I should check my email because Western sent an email with Mental Health resources." 

Poelzer shares the same sentiments. "People don't feel connected enough within the community to feel comfortable going to them," she says.

"I think, going forward, there needs to be a weekly seminar that would be something people could rely on and look forward to and think that this is something that they can always count on to go and talk about mental health and talk about how they're feeling." 

A long pause comes from both young women when asked what they would have liked to say to Jeff. It takes a moment for them to collect their thoughts and work through the wells of tears in their eyes.

Poelzer expressed sadness that she and Courage would no longer be able to share milestones together.  

"You meet people during your time in University and you think they're great people and we can have fun together but others you meet and you realize that they will have a big impact on your life," she says.

If you need help: ​​​​​​

  • 24/7 Crisis Line (Reach Out): (519) 433-2023
  • Indigenous Hope for Wellness Help Line: 1 (855) 242-3310
  • On Campus: Psychological services  (519) 661-3031
  • On Campus: Student health service  (519) 661-3030

 


 

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