Taking care of your mind
Chances are that you or someone you know has some sort of mental illness. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one in four adults in America is afflicted by mental illness.
This past spring semester put mental health on the forefront of Santa Monica College’s attention with issues such as suicide, bomb threats and shootings.
But according to a statistic from the NIMH, 60 percent of adults suffering from mental illness do not receive any mental health services. People may not seek treatment for mental illnesses due to lack of awareness, overwhelming stigmas and insufficient knowledge.
“People should not be suffering with these conditions that can be easily treated,” says Dr. Alison Brown of Psychological Services at SMC. “They are not going because of that shame and embarrassment that can come along with a mental illness.”
The National Alliance on Mental Health defines mental illnesses as “medical conditions that disrupt a person’s thinking, feelings, mood, ability to relate to others and daily functioning.”
Some signs of distress may include confusion, social isolation, dangerous behavior, restlessness, depression and more, according to SMC’s Psychological Services department. However, many people dismiss mental health issues because of stigmas.
“Faculty, staff and students need to have more awareness of some of the signs of students that are in distress, instead of ignoring it, to find more information and figure out what’s going on,” says Dr. Sandra Rowe, coordinator at Psychological Services.
The Psychology Club on campus was involved with the department for the “Be Kind to Your Mind” mental health awareness week in May 2013, and is currently looking to coordinate more student involvement with the health departments at SMC.
“It happens to everybody, and it’s just something that people should get help with and not be ashamed of it,” says SMC student and Psychology Club President Nara Sanchez-Galvan. “My great aunt died, who had schizophrenia. It was difficult trying deal with her illness and her not willing to get help.”
Aside from services located within SMC, the department has a wealth of referral contacts, including the Edelman Westside Mental Health Center. Located at Olympic and Sepulveda, the center has implemented a Transitional Age Youth Program that has involved SMC students.
“We have a dedicated staff and dedicated psychiatrists who provide medication, therapy, assistance, and linking to services with the community,” says Nilsa Gallardo, clinical program head at Edelman.
The SMC community offers several forms of support both on and off campus, but the most important thing to incite change is the awareness of the realities, Brown says.
“There’s this idea that you should just snap out of it — that it’s up to you to take care of yourself, and you shouldn’t have to see a doctor,” Brown says. “But you would never say that to anyone who has diabetes or a heart condition.”
During the “Be Kind to Your Mind” mental health awareness week, the department invited students and faculty to participate in various workshops, including one focusing on international students, and one featuring a speaker who discussed cultural issues surrounding mental illness.
The department is currently planning future events for the fall and spring semesters.