As a college student, there are a lot of things to juggle. Going to class, doing homework, keeping in touch with your family, exercising, checking out cool events, spending time with friends — it’s a lot to handle. On the outside, it may seem like everyone has it together, and we all end up comparing ourselves to our peers.
I have certainly felt insecure when observing the lives of my peers and friends — unsure of when I will develop a group of friends I’m truly close with, unsure whether I will ever really be on top of my work and my extra-curricular activities. I try to remind myself that everybody goes through these crises at some point of their college career, but in the moment, it is not so consoling. It certainly doesn’t help that there is a stigma against admitting you aren’t okay, a stigma against suffering from a mental illness and, even more so, against seeking help. For many students, asking for help is like admitting defeat. Coming to Pomona with experiencing, close hand, the affects of mental illness on my family, I knew that I wanted to support my new community through advocating for mental health awareness.
I joined the 5C Mental Health Alliance, which organizes events about mental health issues year-round for the Claremont Colleges. Our most recent event was a panel of faculty members speaking about their experiences with mental illness. Over 50 students and other faculty members gathered to hear their stories and listen to their advice on how to live with mental illness. It was a vulnerable moment where everyone shared a connection, and it is in those moments where I most appreciate my time at Pomona.
However, MHA as a club organizing events, rather than a weekly space to talk about mental health, was an initial surprise to me as a first-year. One of the members of MHA wanted to start a weekly event to give students at the 5Cs a safe space to talk about mental health, and I was very excited to join the leadership group to kickstart the event. Thus began our weekly “snack”, Thrive!, where we invite 5c students to talk about mental health, chill, and of course, eat yummy food! To be very honest, it didn’t start out with the most success — only one person came to our first snack (yikes!). But we stuck with it, because mental health is important, and there wasn’t any other space purposely dedicated to talking about mental health on campus. In my opinion, such a space is essential in any and every community.
We recently held our third Thrive! event, and it was one of my most memorable experiences at Pomona. It takes a lot to open up to people, especially those who you may have just met. Yet the people who came out to hang with us (at the Hive!) shared their struggles with mental health and offered support to everyone around them. Our activity was creating “self constitutions” that would help us set out realistic goals to lead healthier lives, mentally and physically. It was a reflective time, a self-healing exercise, and a positive way to connect with others and really think about how we can all maintain our mental health.
I think that Thrive! will grow as more and more people come and hopefully realize how their lives can change when they start recognizing and focusing on their mental wellbeing. I am very proud to be a part of a group where we are all-inclusive, positive, and undeniably supportive of each other. We need to remember that our mental health is essential to our happiness. College is tough; we transition into a more independent life and we live with peers who we cannot help but compare ourselves to. We need to remind ourselves that only we define our worth, and we do hold the power to make sure we are happy.