Students protest for mental health resources following suicide at Agnes Arnold Hall
On Thursday afternoon, students and faculty gathered in front of M.D. Anderson Library to protest after the death of Tyler Medina, a former UH student who passed away at Agnes Arnold Hall.
The death, ruled as a suicide, was the second at this location in 2023, and has led to significant student outcry against a perceived lack of resources and inappropriate response from the University to the incidents.
“People are expected to go about their lives as if nothing happened in that building right next to us,” said political science and world cultures Senior Lauren Morton. “We need to expand CAPS services and more staff need to be trained in suicide prevention.”
Around 100 onlookers gathered, including a coalition of student activists and the family of the student that passed away on Monday.
The protest opened with organizers leading the crowd in chants of “silence is violence” and “no justice, no peace,” and the audience listened as organizers demanded an increase in funding for mental health services on campus.
The crowd’s loud passion seemed to abruptly shift to silence as the organizers introduced the next speaker: Cassie Caroll, the sister of the deceased student.
“I don’t get to know what thoughts went through Tyler’s head that morning,” said Caroll. “But I know there was nothing put in place by the University to stop him from going through with it.”
As Caroll’s family offered a few words in support of the protest movement, Morton led the group in a moment of silence to commemorate Medina.
“If you think that moment of silence was long, imagine how long the silence feels for Tyler’s family without him in it,” Morton said.
Various students took the microphone to offer personal stories, condolences, and calls to action, including psychology junior Mariel Campoy.
Campoy quoted several statistics and claimed that the University was below the recommended number of counselor-to-student ratio. She also compared UH to other universities, including Rice, Georgetown, and Texas A&M.
“All those universities, at minimum, have access to free counseling on campus,” said Campoy. “While the university has made counseling free now, it’s unclear whether it’s a short-term or long-term amendment.”
Campoy’s call for more CAPS funding transitioned into a chant of “funding for CAPS, no more scraps,” “fund CAPS not cops” and a few calls of “justice for Tyler”.
Some students shared stirring personal testimonies of their own experiences with suicide being halted by safety measures like suicide nets. Others discussed how it felt to process a death on campus so soon after the most recent incident.
“It happened again,” said psychology sophomore Alexis Boehmer. “What does it mean that I can get that text and immediately know that another student took their life?”
Frustration with University administration was palpable, with some anger targeted at the refusal to close Agnes Arnold Hall after the first death on campus.
One petition to retrofit the building has gained traction online. As Agnes Arnold Hall loomed over the dwindling group of protestors, petition author Emma Kahler brought the protest towards a close with a call for students to maintain pressure on University staff until their demands were met.
“We need more funding for CAPS,” said Kahler. “And when the University says that it’s not in the budget, we need to remind them that we’re more than a grade, like Renu Khator is so fond of saying.”