The Whit wins Outstanding Campus Media Award

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A copy of The Whit sits on a stack of newspapers. - Editor-in-Chief / Miguel Martinez

The Whit recently won Outstanding Campus Media from NJ News Commons Excellence in Local News Awards. “The award goes to a student journalist or campus news organization whose reporting efforts had a demonstrable impact on the college or university community they serve,” their Twitter said.

The stories were written during a tough week when Benjamin Deschesne died by suicide over Thanksgiving break and another student fell from the parking garage. Several members of The Whit attended different meetings and vigils. Copy editors stayed up until 1 a.m. editing stories so the community would be able to read them the next morning. 

We covered multiple perspectives from student’s stories to the administration officials’ plans, and we will continue covering stories when it comes to mental health.

If I could go back in time, though, I wish mental health services were more accessible at Rowan. I would trade this award away to have Benjamin back. 

I didn’t know Benjamin personally, but from what I can tell, many people love him. He played jazz on his baritone saxophone. He was a regular student gone to soon.

I remember coming home and crying after we talked to students that week. It was the hard, ugly sobbing type of cry where the forehead crinkles with headaches, snot soaks the front of shirts and short gasps of breaths where you’re trying hard not to make noise while others were awake.

What happened last fall could’ve happened to me in 2016 if my own mental health didn’t get better. Back then, I was an English major whose mental health was at an all-time low.

I couldn’t function. I failed several classes by not turning in essays. I stopped socializing with friends for a year. My ex would call just to scream at me for not doing anything when we were together. 

I would go to work and fold clothes perfectly for four hours to keep my mind busy because if my mind wasn’t busy, that’s when it would start to spiral like a marble in a sink.

One day a professor suggested I go to the Wellness Center, which was easy because I had class there. When I got there, I remember feeling frustrated because scheduling an initial appointment was confusing to someone who could barely function.

I needed help, but I wasn’t able to get it because I had to make the appointment by myself, which was a difficult task. I felt so alone.

Getting better wasn’t easy. It took years to get my mental health to where it is now. I strongly feel therapy would’ve helped me get better sooner and I still think it would be beneficial today. 

There were a few things that helped me. My friends and family reaching out to show that they cared and missed me, being able to see a bigger picture or in other words realize it’s not the end of the world if x, y, z happens and a passion for writing helped me think differently about life.

I took two semesters off college. Back then, I didn’t think I would graduate. While I’m better today, it’s upsetting seeing the number of students we lost. One death is too many.

As mentioned, we will continue covering mental health stories on campus even after we graduate. If you are struggling, know that you are not alone. There is someone who cares deeply about you and wants you to succeed. Know that it’s okay to take a break because college isn’t for everyone.

Editor’s Note: Typically, in a journalistic format, a person would be referred to by last name after first reference. The use of Benjamin Deschesne’s first name is a stylistic choice done in order to honor his memory.

For comments/questions about this story, email editor@thewhitonline.com or tweet @TheWhitOnline.

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