The father of former MU swimmer Sasha Menu Courey says he's glad to see the University of Missoui's planned investigation of the campus's handling of his daughter's mental health struggles and the events surrounding her death. But he says he wants to focus on moving forward. Mike Menu and Lynn Courey have set up the Sashbear Foundation to raise awareness about their daughter's story and the condition of Borderline Personality Disorder.
The University of Missouri Board of Curators voted Wednesday to hire a law firm to investigate how MU personnel and administration handled events before and after Sasha Menu Courey's June 2011 suicide. A high-profile ESPN broadcast recently renewed attention on the Menu Courey story. The report faulted the university for failing to effectively intervene in Menu Courey's situation, or investigate an alleged sexual assault that may have involved members of MU's football team.
Menu thinks the tone of UM System President Tim Wolfe’s message shows the investigation will go above and beyond what the rules say to find ways to improve the system.
"It is our hope that whatever comes out of that is extremely beneficial,” Menu said. “And hopefully it's really a transformation of the system and not just a band-aid on the current system."
The “system” Menu referred to includes university health professionals, athletic department staff, counselors and many other people who are supposed to form a safety net for a student-athlete facing mental health issues. The investigation approved by the Board of Curators will attempt to discover why that network could not help Menu Courey.
“It's not our intention to be pointing fingers or bringing anybody down, but we're firm in the belief that changes must be made because the system didn't work for Sasha,” Menu said.
Menu Courey's family has not heard from MU since ESPN reported the university failed to investigate the alleged sexual assault of the former swimmer by MU football players.
But Menu said he'd rather focus on what can be changed in the future, which includes raising awareness for Borderline Personality Disorder—the disorder Menu Courey struggled with before her death.
"There's two stories,” Menu said. “There's the sexual assault and the mental health support in universities, and there's also the Borderline Personality Disorder. We really believe there needs to be a huge effort to try to dig into the nugget of gold that's hidden behind treatments for this disorder and how this can be beneficial for everyone."
Menu said nearly 2 percent of adults in the U.S. have BPD, but he had never heard of the disorder until Menu Courey told him she had BPD.
“We believe that some of the Borderline Personality traits were very well hidden and controlled because we believe she used her swimming as a life coping skill,” Menu said.
When Menu Courey could not continue swimming after a back injury and a conversation with her coach regarding counseling, she lost what Menu now believes was his daughter’s “lifeline.” Menu said this exacerbated Menu Courey’s BPD, in addition to the alleged sexual assault.
As for the ESPN report that brought Menu Courey’s story to national attention, Menu said he stands by ESPN’s reporting despite MU statements that have questioned some parts of the report.
“As a result of the ESPN investigation, all of these investigations have started, and we can only think that these things will be helpful for students in the future,” Menu said.
The independent investigation is expected to be complete by the next Board of Curators meeting on April 11, 2014. Meanwhile, the alleged off-campus sexual assault is being investigated by the Columbia Police Department.