(Content warning - some people may find this post distressing due to discussions of mental health and self-harm.
Hello academic community - I could use some advice! I’m a 1st year PhD student, and I went through a difficult time during my MA that I’d like to get some help with.
I worked as an Residential Advisor (RA) on campus for 4 years before my MA and during. It was a great job, but was also a lot of responsibility. The final year I was there (which was during my MA) I had a student living in my halls who was experiencing severe mental health issues. This was not a new situation, as sadly lots of students need extra support, and I had worked with students like this before.
One night, I received a call on the emergency cell from this student, at about 3am. They had attempted to take their own life, and due to issues within my RA team, I was the only one available to help. I went to the student’s room and saw the situation, carried out emergency first-aid, phoned the ambulance and then accompanied them to the ER.
I stayed with the student for the night until they were discharged, and arranged for further support. However, to cut a long story short, the student began to contact me both day and night via email and phone, saying that if I didn’t go to their room to speak to them as and when they asked, they’d do it again.
In the end, I was diagnosed with PTSD in relation to what I saw when I went to the student’s room that first night. After this, they called me repeatedly, hourly, 2, 3, 4am, and sent emails several times a day.
I sought help from the higher ups in the RA team, as we were supposed to in this kind of situation, and though they were aware of this student and the issues going on, they said they couldn’t do much to help me. I began to experience severe anxiety myself and became quite ill. In the end, I quit my job as an RA and had to move back to my parents’ house. This was over 2 hours away from campus. After this, I found my MA very difficult, and due to a combination of all of these circumstances, I was rejected for PhD funding a few months later. I wanted to explain to my Department what had happened, but felt too worried about breaching confidentiality agreements myself and getting into trouble in terms of the contracts I'd signed to be an RA.
When I didn’t receive funding, I spoke to the Head of Department (as in, my academic Department, not my RA team) about what my possible next steps could be in terms of funding, and almost told them, but instead I ended up getting upset and crying in their office. I said that I felt that I had been abandoned by my academic Department. The Head of Department was clearly upset themselves that I felt this way. It wasn't a nice interaction (though wasn't an argument) and after that, I didn't speak to any staff in the Department again. I just stayed home and tried to study and get better.
In the end, I left the University with my MA but also with no one and very few support networks, having isolated myself from everyone. Now I’m a PhD student and I did get funding. However, I feel regret about the way my education ending at my MA institution, which was a fantastic place and which I loved.
I also feel terrible every day about what I said to the Head of Department. They were the best teacher I’d ever had and they are also one of the foremost scholars in my current field. Eventually, the investigation into what happened with the student was closed quite recently - nothing ever came of it, and they graduated after an extra year out as far as I know.
My question is whether I should try to reach out to this academic to explain what happened to me and why I acted how I did and to apologise? If so, how should I do it? Via email, or in person? Or maybe it’s too late? I just feel terrible because to them, it must have looked like at one point that I just withdrew myself from the Department (when I was previously a hugely active member of the PG community there) and then blamed it on them.
Thanks in advance.