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THE TRITON independent, student-run news source at the University of California, San Diego
May 7, 2020

The Current: Mental Health Check-In

Ella Chen, Editor-in-Chief of The Triton

Hello!

It’s hard to believe that the quarter is passing by so quickly and that we are already halfway done! May is an incredibly important month to me because it is Mental Health Awareness Month. I’ve written extensively about my journey with my mental health, and this journey wouldn’t have been possible without the people I love in my corner. 

I have learned a great deal about communities during my time at UCSD. I have found community in my apartment mates, community in The Triton, and community in shared spaces. Not only have these communities taught me about mental health, but they also encouraged me to look within myself to heal and grow. 

This op-ed was the first time I publicly wrote about my experiences. The more I shared my stories with others, the more I saw that I wasn’t “sick.” My friends didn’t look at me any differently when they learned that I had a personality disorder. Even when I wasn’t the best version of myself, they accepted me. The more I learned, the more I began to grow into my own skin. 

Writing this newsletter was a journey, and I hope that as you read it, you follow along and reflect on your own. I hope that this newsletter reminds you to look within yourself and at the people around you with grace and kindness. Lastly, I hope you take care of yourself this month, and every month onward, because your mental health is just as important as your physical health.

I dedicate this edition of The Current to you, the reader. Or rather to you, a member of my community. 

Always cheering you on, 

Ella Chen

Editor-in-Chief 2020–21

P.S. I can only speak for myself and write from personal experience. Your journey is unique, and that will always be a beautiful thing. 

 

 

BREAKING NEWS

Before we actually begin, there are some quick news briefings you should know about first:

  • Chancellor Khosla emailed the student body last week with updates on Fall Quarter. Instruction will be offered remotely and in-person. Furthermore, to adhere to social distancing guidelines, there would be no triple bedrooms.

  • Commencement will be postponed to a later date, and a virtual ceremony will be held on the original dates. 
  • This week, the university announced plans to provide widespread COVID-19 testing in the coming weeks to prepare for the fall. 

Looking Back on News 

Arlene Banuelos / The Triton 

Let’s start by looking back on some mental health coverage we’ve had in the past:

  • Back in October 2016, UCSD received a C+ on mental health evaluations as part of the #HowAreYou campaign. Despite the score, it was one of the highest across the University of California (UC) system. 

  • A year later, a former undergraduate student sued UCSD, alleging that several tiers of university administration had failed him. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) was one of the cited departments, and the student claimed that staff had refused his requests for accommodations. This is not a singular occurrence; other students including Jamika Fletcher have experienced similar struggles.

  • A mental health referendum is one of the items on this year’s Associated Students ballot. The language for the referendum has been approved, and when students vote in Week 8, they will be deciding whether to increase student fees that will fund personnel and programs at CAPS. 

ON THE FLIP SIDE

Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

Here are some of the most poignant op-eds and features we have published thus far are about students’ struggles with their mental health. In this segment, we’ll look through the eyes of others.  

OPINION:


  • Former Vice President of External Affairs Lauren Roberts submitted this piece in 2017 after former Governor Jerry Brown vetoed Assembly Bill (AB 2017). If the bill had passed, a grant program would have been created, pooling money from Proposition 63, allowing schools to apply for mental health funds that they would then match. 

  • In this piece, Staff Writer Nathaniel Imel explores why mental health services on campus aren’t adequate for students. As students learn more about their mental health, triggers, and coping mechanisms, they will continue to seek resources to aid them in their recovery. The problem is that these services are always catching up to students’ needs rather than preparing for them. 

  • This submission proposes an alternative solution--establishing a Student Collective for Mental Health, which would then propose a university-sanctioned Mental Health Resource Center.  

ARTS AND CULTURE:

  • Music has been a vital part in my self-reflection and healing process. Growing up, I’d write down song lyrics that resonated with me because I often felt that music was a medium to bring people together through shared experiences. This article highlights how music has normalized mental illness and the effects it’s had on the writer. 

  • This article features UCSD student artist, Wendy Rodriguez, who was a finalist for the “25 and Under” art showcase at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Rodriguez shares how her family environment and continued struggles with anxiety and depression inspired her artwork.

What is Mental Health?

Photo courtesy of Jake Hyde / Op-Ed Submission

According to mentalhealth.gov, mental health is the culmination of our emotional, psychological and social well-being. As such, there are many factors that affect our mental health, which in turn affects how we think, feel, and act. Thus, our mental health is the combination of both biological factors such as hormones and genes as well as life experiences and family history. 

The discourse regarding mental health is a modern conversation, because it has been a heavily-stigmatized topic in the past. The reason for this is as complex and unique as mental health itself; because our individual experiences govern our mental health, it is difficult to standardize care and treatment. Furthermore, if  it is true that the natural human instinct is to survive, admitting that we are struggling with something we can’t see can appear as a sign of weakness. And since we can’t physically see mental health, it can also be difficult to verbalize. 

Heading into these uncharted waters is often isolating and scary, but it’s an important adventure for all of us. 

Why is Mental Health Important?
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I think of mental health as a spectrum and we all fall somewhere along this spectrum. While some people have symptoms that lie on one end of the spectrum, others might not necessarily meet diagnosable criteria but still have very real and problematic  struggles and experiences. Each day, we tread this spectrum, moving depending on where the day takes us. 

There are many mental health disorders that lie within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), which is the book written by the American Psychiatric Association that is used to diagnose symptoms. Disorders can include mood disorders like depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and personality disorders. The vast spectrum in which these disorders lie also dictates how greatly they affect our lives. 

The consequences of poor mental health reach further than we imagine. Poor mental health affects our diet, our sleep, and our work ethic. It makes us lash out or grow despondent, and this impacts the relationships we have with others, our personal goals, and our self-image. We carry this with us, a negative feedback loop that cycles again and again. 

Just because we haven’t received a diagnosis before is no reason to deny its existence. We also shouldn’t need to be diagnosed to look out for our mental health. I’ve found that the more we learn about ourselves, the better we are able to empathize and communicate with others. This allows us to be more open-minded and accepting of others’ experiences, which in turn improves the quality of life for ourselves and the people around us. 

Photo by Flickr user sunriseOdyssey. Link to photo license.

Some Self-Care Ideas

There are many options you can take to care for yourself. Self-care is also unique to each person. I know that my coping mechanisms and hobbies are different from my roommates’, and that’s okay. I’ve taken the liberty of amassing some tips and options you can use to help find the right direction for you. Some of these things sound like common sense...but taking care of ourselves is also kind of common sense, right? As always, these are just options to consider. After all, unique experiences require unique solutions.

  • EXERCISE. I definitely know this isn’t for everyone, but going outside and doing some sort of physical activity that increases serotonin in the brain. I personally dislike going to the gym, so I’ve taken to rock climbing and yoga as my exercise of choice. 

  • SLEEP. Practicing good sleep hygiene helps the body settle in a routine where it knows when to shut down and rest. I know it’s hard to sleep regularly, especially in college, but going to bed and waking up around the same time everyday does make a difference in your energy level! This also means eating regularly to maintain those energy levels. 

  • COMPANY. This is especially hard when we’re cooped up inside during the pandemic, but socializing with people we care about reminds us that we are loved and important in others’ lives. I know I shut off people when I fall into my episodes, but every time I catch up with friends new and old, I always feel a little brighter than before. 

  • AWARENESS. Take time to reflect on how your experiences have affected the way you feel and think. By recognizing personal triggers and unhealthy coping mechanisms, we understand ourselves a little better and are more equipped to handle obstacles when they arise. 

Bridging Mental Health in Our Communities 

Mental health is an individual journey and a societal process. Our individual experiences shape how we think and feel, and this molds our mental health. But our individual adventures also mirror the way we as a society learn and grow from trauma. In such a way, our communities are a product of generations of individual experiences that are woven together into decisions and stories that are passed down today. 

I have found that perspective is like a looking glass, that brings the big picture into focus. While we are not each responsible for curing society’s ills, we are able to use our individual experiences to make the most out of the time that we have in our communities. Self-care and understanding our own mental health are both choices only we get to make. In the same way, the way we see ourselves and the way we respond to things that happen are also choices we make. 

So you can choose to see yourself as a strong, beautiful, resilient person. And on the days when it’s hard to, that’s okay too. Mental health is made up of thousands of cycles and pathways that take time. Just remember that no matter where you go, the choices are always in your hands. 

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Content Copyright © 2016-2019 The Triton. The Triton is not in anyway affiliated with UC San Diego and the opinions expressed therein are not the overall public opinions of UCSD, ASUCSD, or our staff. Materials produced by The Triton do not reflect the views of the Regents of the University of California and the Regents do not endorse, warrant, or otherwise take responsibility for said content. Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Triton Editorial Board.

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