In the last weeks of my college career, which are somehow just floating by, I’ve had more free time to reminisce than ever before and a few years of accumulated challenges, battles, and wins to reflect on. I’ve been asked to reflect publicly here, so I won’t add to the body of work praising the adventure, mystery, and thrill of CMC. It’s amazing, of course, as are the people, the staff and general life on campus — it’s a wonderful place to learn and grow. In my time reflecting, however, I found a pressing desire to address the issue of mental health care, a topic seriously lacking in coverage on campus.
Last year, Derek Ko ’14 wrote an opinion piece in the Claremont Independent giving a much-needed appraisal of the counseling resources available to 5C students, or lack thereof. The article made rounds, and I heard friends echo the sentiments mentioned. However, the topic has again died from the scene, and not much has changed in the way CMC helps students suffering from mental health problems. Professors are known to reach out every now and then if students seem to be slipping in their grades or attendance, though instances of such support are rare. Monsour Counseling Center, though great in a pinch, has become an object of criticism among a majority of students who have sought help at the Claremont Colleges.
I’ve aired my grievances with Monsour, and I don’t feel it would be fitting to chide CMC’s administration for their lack of effort in tackling this issue in what should be a positive senior reflection. Instead, I want to offer some support to anyone who feels they are falling through the cracks.
It’s hard to handle depression at CMC or anywhere else. Being at the college age implies a high level of volatility and growth — you try, you win, you lose, and you sometimes move on. It’s a challenging process, and it comes with being pent up in a place with thousands of kids your age, fighting to make a place in the world.
But there are so many people like you, and you may not know it because they’re as private as you are about what really haunts them.
One of the blessings of senior year has been reaching a level of understanding with friends that goes beyond getting together to drink or “grab lunch.” Unfortunately, I only realized this year how similar my experiences were to those of my closest friends, and how much we missed out on by not sharing them with one another. It might be because we didn’t fully understand our predicaments ourselves, but the knowledge and the ability to share in harsh times has brought me closer to the people I realized I needed.
As strange as it is to say in the context of mental health, I still think that CMC is a family. I’ve heard opinions that CMCers like to brush these issues under the rug to maintain the image of the “Happiest College in America,” and while that might be true, I’m inclined to believe that everyone likes to brush these issues under the rug to feign happiness — it’s the nature of the illness. But in my experience, being honest about my state of mind has never brought a negative response. It’s easy to think that no one wants to hear it, but if they’re your friends, they do.
I know, reaching out is hard. It’s especially hard when the resource provided by the college is criticized by so many students and the administration somehow doesn’t hear these complaints. However, the resource exists, and it can help if you use it correctly. What the college doesn’t tell you is that you should attend as many of your free Monsour Counseling sessions as you can if for no other reason than for preventative care. This is the message that organizations like the 5C Mental Health Alliance try to propagate. In the midst of a particularly trying semester, it can be really difficult to muster up the courage or energy to realize that you need help and go seek it out yourself. If you have been before and feel comfortable with your psychologist, it is a thousand times easier to go in when something might be wrong.
Another thing the college doesn’t tell you is that you can ask to see a different person at Monsour if you don’t fit with the person they’ve assigned you to. I know it seems like they put you with the first person who is available (because they do), but it’s up to you to find a person who understands you best and can help you work through your problems. Those people exist, and even if you don’t find them at Monsour, they’re worth going elsewhere to find.
No problem is too small. From failed attempts at relationships to instability at home, a variety of conflicts can hurt your wellness and are worth addressing. Losing your favorite pen before a midterm might trigger an all-out meltdown, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that because you’ve just been thrust into a world with high expectations for little old you. You’re going to do great things with your life because you’re here at CMC, and that’s as good a starting place as any. College is a crazy, weird time, but there are people, though they may be hidden, to help you along the way.