A Letter to the SUU Student Body

Dear SUU Students,

About two years ago, I went through my own personal hell. I was learning a new job while taking courses for my doctorate, I started doubting my faith for the first time in my life, I was continually failing to manage conflict between my employees, and to top it off, I found myself as the subject of cyberbullying and stalking. 

I felt like a failure and disappointment to the many people who were relying on me. I carried myself as if everything was okay, but my days were spent worrying about matters outside of my control.

I stopped eating and drinking more than one small snack a day. At night I couldn’t fall asleep, and the little sleep I did get was because I’d eventually pass out due to exhaustion. When I’d wake up a few hours later, my mind would immediately start worrying and start the cycle all over again.

It was March, just over a month away from graduation and a much-needed break, yet the thought of surviving each day was utterly overwhelming. I tried so hard to keep it together, but finally broke down one evening and told my wife the idea of dying seemed easier than surviving until the end of the semester.

I was not myself. I felt so broken. I was not okay. 

Breaking down at that moment ended up being the best thing that could’ve happened to me, however, as I finally took the first step of recovery and told someone how I was feeling. My wife immediately made appointments for me to meet with my physician and a mental health counselor.

Over the next few months, I found myself slowly returning to “normal.” I learned that I was suffering from generalized anxiety disorder brought on by a fear of failing to meet expectations. My physician and counselor worked together to find an effective medication regimen, I learned some calming and coping techniques, and I began constructively acknowledging my emotions, rather than merely ignoring them.

My bout of anxiety is the worst trial I have gone through to date (knock on wood), but in many ways, I am grateful I went through it. Confronting my anxiety didn’t just make me a stronger person; it made me a more empathetic professor, husband, father, colleague and friend.

This past week, the student-journalists at SUU News published an issue of the University Journal with a centralized theme: wellness.

This issue came together only after three brave young women came forward with their own stories about sexual assault and expressed a desire to help others on this campus who may be struggling. I can say without a shadow of doubt that the articles written in this issue of the University Journal are the most important articles published during my tenure over the newspaper.

While it is standard protocol to not publish magazine articles online until the next issue is released, we, as a staff, have decided to make an exception. Due to an overwhelming demand for this issue, over the next few weeks we will publish each of the articles in their entirety online. 

Whether it be physical, emotional, or mental wellness, this is a topic of which I have grown extremely passionate. College students face so many trials; between class, homework, relationships, work, and cabin parties, life can get a little crazy.

 What I want you all to know is that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to need help, and it is okay to talk about it.

It may sound cliché, but I genuinely do love my students. Watching them progress through their degrees to the point where they no longer need me is the best part about being an educator. Conversely, seeing them struggle is the worst.

Southern Utah University values its students more than I can express. The dedication this university has made to the well-being of the student body is nothing short of inspiring. If you are struggling with anything, please reach out and let us help.

For any of you out there who may be struggling, know that you are not alone. It’s okay if you need some help as you start on the path to healing. Make an appointment with CAPS or the Title IX Office. Find a home in the Nest or CDI.

We are here to help you, so please let us.


Hayden Coombs