Anonymous Weimar University Student Story of Attempted Suicide

IA Note: We received this story back in August 2022. We cannot reach back to the person who submitted this because they did not to leave us an email or any other contact information. We are sharing the story as is [without any edits: other than their message to us] and hope it fulfills the individual’s requests to the best of our ability. We are choosing to share this story now since other events at the university have made this account relevant.

My name is J. (not my real name or initial). I am a former student of Weimar Institute/University. I would like to shed some more light on things that I believe were not handled appropriately or effectively at Weimar.

Here is my story:

I do not wish to give a specific date, but I attended Weimar within the last 5 years. During my time there I struggled immensely with self-harming, depression, anxiety, and eventually suicidal ideation. Within the first week of my first semester there, the self-harming was brought to the attention of the ladies dean (not a current employee). She, along with the men’s dean (also not a current employee) who was a former police officer, barged into my room uninvited on a Saturday afternoon and made it very clear that such behavior was not acceptable, nor would be tolerated on the Weimar campus. Frightened, I immediately started crying and asked to be excused so I could go to the restroom and get a tissue. I was firmly told I was not allowed to leave the room and the men’s dean did not allow me to pass. Eventually they relented, but the ladies dean followed me into the restroom and stood outside the stall, observing me as I blew my nose. From that moment forward I felt afraid of the deans and did not have a trusting relationship with them.

Following this, the decision was made by Dr. Nedley, the ladies dean, and some others in the college administration that if I was to stay on campus, I would need to follow a strict contract. It was straightforward – either sign the contract and follow every aspect of it, or go home. I signed the contract because I felt like I had no other choice; going home was not a feasible option for me at that time. This contract controlled every aspect of my life while at Weimar. I was told to walk/run 5 miles every day, not counting the walking to and from class or other “routine” activities. This meant I was often up at 0430 or 0500 in the morning in order to achieve this daily goal, which was checked off by the ladies dean every evening. I became exhausted from this rigorous schedule. When I asked if 4.5 miles a day would be acceptable or If I could rest on Saturdays, I was told that it was a requirement in the contract and if I broke it, I was placing myself in a position to be sent home. The contract went well beyond this though. Sleep, food intake, where and when I could eat, reading material, free time, access to electronics and a phone, study time, work schedule, who I could be friends with and spend time with, and many other things beyond this were all strictly monitored and controlled. I felt like I was constantly walking on eggshells with the staff and that at any moment I could be sent home for the slightest misdemeanor. I did not feel safe on the campus, nor did I feel like the staff were working with my best interests in mind.

As part of the contract, I also spent much time with Dr. Nedley in his on-campus clinic. Although I believe Dr. Nedley was genuine in his efforts and went above and beyond to try and help me, I don’t believe he was qualified to successfully help me from a mental health perspective. As a doctor, his specialty lies in internal medicine, not mental health. His treatment plan for me, although involving some important medical aspects such as a thorough lab workup, was experimental at best. It was a “let’s try this and see if it works” sort of treatment plan. I was put on a regimen of many supplements including 80mg of zinc in an effort to lower my copper levels and improve anxiety. I have no proof that this was actually successful or that this is the best method to lower copper levels. From the blood work done, I was not zinc deficient nor was my copper levels excessively elevated or indicative of a condition such as Wilson’s disease in which an increasing high dose of zinc might be necessary. I have discovered since then that the daily recommended dose of zinc for women is 8mg and the maximum daily dose is 40mg (Mayo Clinic). What I was prescribed was well above this recommendation and the plan was to increase the dosage even further as time went on. Each person’s response to medications and supplements is different, but I believe this high dose of zinc actually worsened my anxiety. I also developed nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps as a response to it.

I attempted suicide twice during my time at Weimar. The first was during the on-campus depression recovery program that I was mandated to attend and the second, more serious and lethal attempt, happened 4 months after the first. The first suicide attempt was followed up with prayer, Biblical counseling, more herbs and vitamins, an even tighter control over my life, and continued mental health counseling sessions with an off-campus, but school assigned, licensed therapist. These things, with the exception of the off-campus therapy, did nothing to address the attempt or prevent me from attempting again. In fact, after the first attempt, I felt even less safe and increasingly unwilling to trust the staff on campus. Thus, my suicidal ideation and planning for the second attempt went unrecognized and unaddressed by the school.

The second attempt was well-thought out, intentional, and lethal in design. It ended up with 911 involved and police transport to a nearby hospital. Upon my release from an in-state psychiatric hospital, it was made exceptionally clear that I would not be allowed to return to campus in any aspect, nor would I be allowed to speak to or be seen by any of my friends or the other staff or students on campus. In fact, I was specifically told that I could not contact one of my closest friends there under the guise that she did not wish to talk with me. I later learned that this was not true, and that on her end, she had been informed that I had attempted suicide, but was not told that I survived until a couple of weeks later. We did not end up being able to contact each other and clear up all of the miscommunication brought on by the school, whether it was intentional or unintentional, until almost 2 years later. It was also made clear to me that I could either choose to withdraw from the school or else be terminated as a student. In all respects, I was made to feel unwanted and that I should not return to campus, ever. Before going home, I had separate sessions with Dr. Nedley and the therapist. In neither of these sessions do I recall anything being purposefully done to set up plans or appointments for follow-up care after I went home. If it was discussed, it was discussed in brief, and I was otherwise left hanging and sent home to figure it out on my own. Minus one telephone call with Dr. Nedley, I did not receive or initiate any further communication with either Dr. Nedley or the therapist once I left campus.

Beyond this, significant family members were left uninformed as to what was happening during my time at Weimar, including information about my safety, whereabouts, and events related to and leading up to the suicide attempts. I do not recall signing any forms that denied them access to this information and in the aftermath, I have seen how this misstep on the school’s part caused a lot of undue worry, anxiety, and stress for family members.

In the end, I am still working through the aftereffects of my time at Weimar. It has been several years since, but I am still dealing with incredible anxiety, nausea, vomiting, fear, and trauma related to my experiences there. In sharing my story, I have no desire to speak ill of those involved – we are all human and imperfect. But I do want to be another voice to stand up and call for accountability, change, and evaluation of how serious situations, whether mine or others, have been handled at Weimar in the past, need to be addressed in the present, and never repeated in the future.

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  1. I believe this is more common at Weimar than I originally thought. I also attended Weimar within the last five years, and although I never attempted suicide, I had suicidal ideations and a detailed plan at one point. I was pretty good at masking my depression from staff, although friends knew about it. So I was probably spared from what could have been even worse. The message I received while at Weimar was that depression is caused by poor lifestyle habits. So basically it’s your fault if you’re depressed because you’re not following EGW/the Bible lifestyle principles. Nearly half of my close friends were dealing with depression/anxiety at some point while at Weimar. To whoever wrote this post, I truly hope you’re in a better place now, thank you for sharing your story.

  2. WOW! How brave of you to expose yourself by telling us your story. While reading your narrative, I could only think that this place sounds like a cult! I am sure there are some level-headed people there but they were apparently not part of the small circle of people “managing” this young lady’s “treatment.” Please, shut this place down if you do not want to gut the administration and tell Dr. Nedley that he, just like her, can never come back!

  3. I too, am a former Weimar student. I was told by the same girl’s dean mentioned above that I was anxious and homesick because I wasn’t connected with God, when in reality I was fighting a mental breakdown because there was no support system and I felt like a criminal due to the constant and overbearing culture of legalism and watching students to make sure they’re doing everything right. The mental and spiritual abuse at Weimar is rampant and there is a cycle of abuse that needs to be broken.

  4. I was the chief operating officer during this timeframe and I can assure you that I personally did not know anything about your situation. I fought (I believe) tirelessly to change the culture, but in the end I guess I gave up (as have several board members if you have not noticed). I would like to personally apologize to you for not protecting you. I will pray that God has or will lead people into your life that will allow you to heal. Students and staff have been clamoring for years to have professional counseling services on campus, but the truth is they get sent to DR (one size fits all). I am not aware of any university in the US that does not have a robust counseling service, well, except for Weimar.

  5. “J” I commend you on taking the step of sharing about your experience. It now raises the question for all of us, especially as a parent, how many similar stories are there from other students?? It is highly concerning to know people personally and then read accounts of people “forced” to attend the DR program in order to remain on campus, keep employment, or receive their earned diploma. I personally know 2 people who were put in this position and due to it not being their choice, donor money funded their DR program attendance.

    I urge and implore the Board to set up ethical and professional boundaries in these very apparent conflicts of interest.

    We need more bravery all around, from victims and those in power. God wants to do great things for us. I pray that w humility we can let truth set us free.

  6. Weimar deserves to be investigated as closely as possible.
    It is outlandish that there are no mental health supports other than a lifestyle program on campus for students. I feel for the person who has submitted this story. Having grown up in the self-supporting Adventist world, it’s very common to have mental health struggles brushed off with “you’re not following health/lifestyle rules closely enough”. This is not helpful and introduces even more stress into the situation. The stringent rules and obsessive monitoring of behaviour (of grown adults!) that Weimar employs would drive anyone insane and I’m not at all surprised that so many students on campus struggle with depression and anxiety.
    It is also laughable that seemingly nobody in the DR program is actually qualified to work with high-risk individuals. No respectable recovery program would not at the very least have a Psych RN doing an intake upon arrival. As stated in other articles and comments, Nedley specializes in internal medicine. I’d love to see any proof that he is qualified to deal with complex care mental health patients. Over-prescribing zinc supplements does not cut it. Abysmal behaviour is being brought to light in every aspect of Weimar’s existence; unfortunately they seem to be totally unwilling to change their mindset or staff. But eventually Nedley’s house of cards will come down.

  7. I can try to connect you with the person who told this story. I went to high school with them and still have their number. I was also the one that first let them know that their friend was lied to about their situation and was able to reconnect them.

  8. Hello, I’d like to know who this really is. I’d be happy to talk with you in real life to hear the truth. I hope you have a beautiful day.

  9. It’s hard to understand this story. Just like God will not force those who don’t want to be in heaven to be there, but if they do choose to be there, they must live by His dictates and His rules, the same goes for a place like Weimar.

    If you are choosing to stay, but thought it was so awful, why stay?

    I saw the sentence where you say you could not go home. But there are lots of options besides home or Weimar, for example another relative or a different school that is ore in line with your needs.

    1. If you have struggled with mental health issues then that may be why it’s hard to understand….
      Compassion is always the answer.

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