Mental Health and Care in a Crisis

By Jocelyn Gardner ‘17
Mental Health Columnist & Webmaster

As you undoubtedly know, a lot of things have been going on in Claremont in the past couple of weeks, and I feel like it would be ridiculous of me to overlook this. Both blatant and implicit racism, prejudice, appropriation, silencing and overall oppression of groups on all the campuses have been happening for a long time, and last week there was incredible activism. In addition to the unrest at many college campuses, there were also tragedies across the globe-- tragedies that were also wound up in oppression. (There were attacks stemming from extreme, violent oppression, and there was a shameful handling of “news” in the media even for tragedies like the natural disasters in Japan and Mexico. If you didn’t know about those, you see my point…) On our campuses, (hopefully) most of us believe that when it comes to people, there is no “mold.” There is no “typical,” and there should not be stereotypes. But there are, and they are messed up beyond explanation. I don’t need to tell you this! But I do want to say that no matter how you identify, you are a person, and you have the right to take care of yourself and feel respected and validated.

This is why I’m strongly advocating for self-care—for everyone. What is happening on this campus, on the 5Cs, and across the country and the world affects everyone. There is an inevitable connection, even if you live in a cave made of homework (e.g. me), even if you’re not a person of color, even if you don’t feel a part of this community and even if you haven’t been following the news. But I’m not here to preach. I’m here to remind you that you have options in taking care of yourself and those around you, if you want to. These options vary greatly, and I’ve included more resources at the end of this article, so don’t be discouraged if at first you don’t see options you’d like.

  1. Monsour
    Usually, people recommend Monsour if you are looking to address mental health. I’ve been informed that Monsour has a waiting period of five weeks, and it is completely fine to not even want to go to Monsour regardless. However, there are definitely options that don’t involve waiting (or counseling/therapy/etc.), and what will help is very different for everyone. Despite the five- week wait, if you are in the midst of a crisis and need an emergency appointment, I’m sure you’d be able to go. Don’t let the waiting period deter you from seeking help for yourself or someone else! If you or anyone you know is in crisis, please call Campus Safety: (909) 607-2000
  2. Talk to someone
    Luckily, there are many other ways to practice self-care and find support. For example, find someone you trust and speak to them. There are so many people you can talk to: peer mentors, RAs, roommates, hallmates, friends, CLORG leaders, professors, advisers, administrators, family, people from high school, etc.
  3. Accept your emotional state
    Let yourself have your emotions, and if you don’t feel any now, that’s also fine. Just know that down the road, they might suddenly emerge, and it helps to be aware of what’s going on so you aren’t taken off-guard. Having a sense of community or solidarity with someone else can make a world of difference. (Side note: this is also another reason that in this time, it is important to honor any requests for people to have a safe space. It might seem like people are leaving you out, but they’re just having the space they need to support each other.)
  4. Communicate with professors
    Let your professors know what’s going on with you—I’m sure they’d be supportive and would agree that your wellbeing is more important than your school work. Even if they don’t, the support systems for students, namely the Dean of Students staff, would back you up (e.g. emailing your profs, setting up temporary accommodations). If you don’t know what to say, just be honest with your professors: communicating honestly is best thing you can do. You might not be sure you even need to miss class or have an extension on an assignment yet, but it is always good to be proactive and precautionary in such cases. Some examples of what you can ask for are excused absences, taking breaks, having extensions on assignments, making up a test and meeting outside of class.  Everyone’s been doing a lot of self-advocating, advocating for others, and learning. At the same time, we’re also students. Don’t let your identity as a student come before your wellbeing. Ever. School should always be secondary to your safety.
  5. Online resources
    The internet is full of things that will piss you off, but it also has many things that can validate you or get your mind off things. Do what makes you feel good: looking at pictures of pugs, reading feminist articles, taking buzzfeed quizzes, watching Netflix, reading about people experiencing similar feelings, etc. Chances are, if you want it, you’ll find it out there. I’ve included a few resources at the end of this article specifically relating to self-care that I found online. Just be cautious of the fact that the internet also has the potential to expose you to more negative content, whether that’s ignorant comments, trolls, posts about the horrors going on in the world, and information about oppression. This brings me to another tip:
  6. Unplug
    If scrolling through your Facebook feed or YikYak is only going to make you feel bad, try taking a break from tech. Being connected to what’s going on is a good thing, but like any good thing, too much of it turns it into a bad thing. Give yourself even just fifteen minutes on “airplane mode” and see how you feel.
  7. Go outside
    The sun does wonders. Getting some fresh air alone or with a friend can give you a boost-- try a short walk to the mailroom or to pet the dogs that frequent Seal Court on afternoons.
  8. Take care of your body
    It sounds trite, but make sure you’re taking care of your physical needs. Drink plenty of water, get some sleep, stretch, breathe, make sure you aren’t hungry, and try to let go of tension in your muscles. Take care of your eyes by turning on lights and taking breaks from screens. Take a refreshing shower; do your nails; drink some tea… there are so many possibilities.
  9. Affirm yourself
    Remind yourself that you deserve to feel okay if you want to! It’s a right, not a privilege. As much as many of you might focus on other people, often the best way to help them is to help yourself, first. Tell yourself, “Good job!” “You can do this” or anything else that you know you’d appreciate hearing. It goes a long way and helps you stay motivated.
  10. Do something!
    Take 30 minutes and do something that you know will help you decompress. For some, it feels good to see tangible progress, so something like cleaning up an area of your room or your desktop can help. Or, you can knock out some smaller assignments or break large ones into small steps so you can check off items quickly on your to-do list. If that will only stress you out more, do something completely different that you like, such as watching a tv episode, going to the pool, writing to a friend abroad or working on something artistic.
  11. Know your limits
    If something feels bad or overwhelming, by all means, try to get away from it.
  12. Remember: YOU COUNT!

Feeling the emotional burden of the suffering of so many people is no small deal. Again, so much has been going on, and you do not have to feel the full weight of that every waking moment. Allow yourself time for yourself-- “you time.” It might seem trivial, but it really goes a long way in preventing burnout, which can manifest even months later.

I don’t feel that I can say much else about all of these current events (i.e. Paris, Beirut, Baghdad, Kenya, Japan, Mexico…), but I have some final thoughts related to campus activism. For people not involved in the activism on campus, it might be hard to understand what’s happening, but the most important thing you can do is keep an open mind. It’s hard to judge an action, a person, something you heard, etc. in a split second. Remember that the big picture will not always be visible in a small, contextualized moment. For example, the events on campus are not isolated incidents that suddenly sparked the events of last week, but a culmination point of deep, underlying tensions that have been boiling below the surface for a very long time. You might not know what’s going on yet, or how you feel yet, and that’s fine. In addition, this time of semester combined with all of the events on campus and around the world can leave you feeling very isolated, but please try not to rule out allies before you even give them a chance to help.

As an ally or potential ally, talking to people can help you understand what you are feeling and what is happening. It is vital for allies to have a community as well. Some people say, “but this doesn’t involve me!” when in fact, this DOES involve them. As this is occurring on our home campuses, we must be involved. If we want to have a community, and if we want progress, we must combine the two: there won’t be progress without community, and there won’t be a community without progress.