Hope Center reaches for mental wellness

For many students, dealing with mental health issues can seem daunting, causing them to forgo treatment and in some cases it can lead to them harming themselves or others.

With a graffiti inspired wall open for all students to write their feelings, and a wall of postcards decorated with secrets ranging from “While I was kissing you, I was thinking of him” to “I have wanted to die many x before,” the Alive! Mental Health Fair brought awareness of mental health issues to the Santa Monica College quad on Tuesday during Mental Health Awareness month.

Student David Carillo was one of the many who stopped to not only read others’ thoughts and confessions, but also interact and add his own. With the recent Santa Barbara mass shooting, the urgency of discussing the pressing issue of mental health has once again made its way to the forefront of national dialogue.

“Considering the events that happened a few days ago, I think it’s a good opportunity for people to express what they’re feeling,” said Carillo.

Reese Butler, founder of the 1-800-SUICIDE hotline, was on hand from the Kristin Brooks Hope Center to provide information to students on warning signs, risk factors, when a friend may be suicidal, how to ask questions, how to persuade someone to get help, and where to get help.

Butler described the event as a low threshold entry to mental wellness, getting people to actively think about their mental well being through expression.

“Most students don’t even know on campus they have free counseling,” said Butler. “It’s much easier for somebody to create a secret and stick it in the box than it is to go to the psychological department.”

Also on hand from the organization was Zantika Ellis, who found out about the Hope Center through the non-profit movement "To Write Love on Her Arms," which deals with providing hope to people dealing with depression, suicide, addiction, and self-injury.

"The help is there. They don’t know there’s resources, they don’t know there’s free counseling on their college campus,” said Ellis. “Students are always stressed out dealing with stuff going on at home, work, and everything else, there’s something available to help them get through that crisis.”

Psychological Services Coordinator Sandra Lyons Rowe, Ph.D., says the SMC Psychological Services department sees students between 500-600 times per semester and adds that most of those students acquire services multiple times. The busiest time for these psychologists tends to be around midterms and finals.

“Many students are under a lot of pressure to do well and if they don’t they might start to feel bad about themselves,” said Rowe.

She cites acceptances and rejections from universities as a probable factor in the rise of students seeking help.

In light of the shooting over Memorial Day weekend at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Rowe says it is too soon to know any impact their services will have from students seeking help on that matter, but acknowledged a significant number of students that needed help in the fall semester following last year’s shooting here at SMC.

Student Ethan De Cohen, read the confessional postcards on display at the event and felt like it was a great form of expression

“This brings reality into the light,” said De Cohen. He pointed out how nobody knows what you’re going to write as an anonymous contributor to the wall, and how the display provides a look into others’ mindsets.

De Cohen found it enlightening how most posts stemmed from personal dilemmas and societal views of self-worth.

Juan LopezComment