Forever Humboldt

Transforming Tragedy into Hope: Gift Strengthens Access to Medical and Mental Health Care

Laurence White with his children, Sophie and Liam.

When experiencing anxiety, depression, or other serious medical concerns, students may need extra support from counselors or medical professionals. At HSU, many students face serious obstacles in getting effective care when their medical needs exceed the treatment options available on campus. 

Inspired by this critical need, Rob Campbell (‘94, Environmental Resources Engineering) and his wife Diana made a $5,000 gift to Humboldt State’s Overcoming Barriers to Health Fund. The fund helps pay for the costs of healthcare, crisis intervention, and suicide prevention services.

Even for those with insurance—co-pays, out-of-pocket expenses, and the limited number of healthcare providers in our community can prevent students from staying in school and focusing on academics. “We know how hard it is to afford an education,” says Rob. “It becomes incredibly difficult when someone is also struggling with an issue like depression. We want to help students get access to critical care without sacrificing their academic goals. We want to make sure students don’t miss that one appointment that could be the turning point in their life.”

Supporting mental health on campus is a deeply personal issue for the Campbells. Laurence White—the father of Diana's children, Sophie and Liam—took his own life in 2018 after a decades-long battle with depression. Despite his struggle, Laurence worked to educate others about the challenges of this condition, once writing a powerful article about depression for the Huffington Post.

The Campbells are honoring Laurence’s life through their gift to Humboldt State. Their choice to talk about his loss is part of a family effort to destigmatize conversations around mental health. Sophie is furthering this effort by volunteering for a mental health organization on her college campus.

In 2017, the campus-wide Healthy Minds Study revealed almost 2,000 HSU students were living with unmet mental health needs. While HSU continues to expand services and reduce wait times for students seeking support, demand for counseling continues to increase nearly 5% each year, independent of enrollment.  

This rising demand for counseling support among students is why the Overcoming Barriers to Health Fund is so critically important. “We are trying to take this experience and create something positive. If we can help one person, it will be worth it. I can’t imagine a parent having to live with the loss of their child,” says Diana. “Sophie and Liam take comfort in knowing this gift means that someone might not have to lose a son, daughter, or friend to suicide.”  

Dr. Brian Mistler, Executive Director of HSU’s Student Health & Wellbeing Services, says the gift is already making a difference on campus. “Even the most dedicated, hardworking student can be struck by unforeseen medical issues. As a result, some students leave HSU after years of effort due to unexpected healthcare-related expenses. What Rob, Diana, Sophie, and Liam have done is so important– they’re removing the stigma for those seeking help while increasing access to support.”

Rob and Diana hope others will join their effort in making a meaningful impact on the lives of students. Community members can lend their support to the Overcoming Barriers to Health Fund here. “The barriers to accessing timely, affordable healthcare can get in the way of students’ dreams if we don’t support them. Everyone has the ability to make a difference,” adds Diana.

If you have questions about giving, or would like to learn about other ways to support HSU students, visit loyalty.humboldt.edu, email the Office of Philanthropy at giving@humboldt.edu, or call (707) 826-5200.

Students seeking services can walk into the Health & Counseling Building or visit wellbeing.humboldt.edu for hours, guidance, and more information. If you or someone you know is struggling, consider calling The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-TALK (8255).