Depressing Times On Campus

depression dow

Jordan Nott's first year at George Washington University was a happy one. He made a lot of friends — and he made the dean's list.

"It's sad because I know I could have been happy here," Nott told CBS News correspondent Harold Dow.

But now, instead of attending George Washington, Nott is suing the university.

Nott tells CBS News that he was suspended from school, barred from going back to his dorm, barred from classes and basically thrown off the campus.

What did Nott do to deserve such treatment? He says it was all a result of his seeking help for depression.

Nott's descent into depression began near the end of his freshman year, when one of his closest friends committed suicide on campus. When Nott returned to school for his sophomore year, he began feeling deeply depressed. He sought help, but one dark night he hit bottom.

"I hit the lowest point of my depression and I thought generally about suicide, but I didn't attempt it or plan it or threaten it, I just thought generally about it," Nott said. "And that scared me."

Nott checked himself into George Washington University Hospital. The next day, he received a letter from the university.

"The letter said that I had violated the student code of conduct and that I was being charged with endangering behavior," Nott said.

Was he a danger to himself?

"No. I went and got help," Nott said.

Was he a danger to others?

"No," Nott said.

George Washington's "endangering behavior" policy forbids actions of any kind that imperil or jeopardize the health or safety of anyone, including oneself. Many colleges have similar guidelines, including mandatory withdrawals. What's not known is how often they are used.

"We believe we did the right thing, morally, ethically and professionally," said George Washington provost and vice president of health affairs John Williams. "This is a perfect example of a policy that had perfectly good intentions, and the outcome turned out to be good but the complications in-between we don't want to repeat."

He says the policies are being reviewed, and despite the lawsuit, he remains convinced that the university did the right thing.

"I point to the outcome, the fact that we have a student who is alive and is doing better," Williams said.

Nott is doing better — just not at George Washington. He worries that other students might be reluctant to seek help.

"That's actually one of my fears, that students are going to look at this story and take it the wrong way and instead of getting help, just avoid it altogether," Nott said.

Nott is now on the dean's list at the University of Maryland. He expects to graduate this summer.