Editorial Board: We Can't Be Silent on Mental Health

Last week, we published a story in the Opinions section that has quickly become the most widely shared and discussed piece of content we’ve had the privilege to host this school year. “Pushed to the Edge: From Student to Exile” by Yi Li PO '14, who discussed her experience with Pomona College’s response to an incident of self-harm, has generated a flurry of conversation around campus and online—and rightly so. Although many of those conversations were in progress and are ongoing, we would like to thank and commend Yi for her willingness and bravery in sharing her private narrative, which has clearly resonated with many students.

Administrators, too, seem to be taking notice of the reinvigorated prominence of mental health discussions. In a campus-wide email April 23, Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum invited students to two forums on the topic April 28-29 in the Women’s Union. Feldblum’s message referenced Yi’s story, and offered students a chance to pose “any questions … about the College’s approach, processes, and policies.” We appreciate this move toward greater transparency, but we do have some suggestions to ensure the efficacy of the forums. 

As these opportunities for direct dialogue approach, we hope the college recognizes the need to sincerely weigh students’ emotional responses, opinions, and proposals. The language of the announcement email gives us reason to worry that these forums might turn out to be a rehashing of what actions Pomona has taken so far to address mental health issues. While it’s true that progress has been made, a token meeting that re-emphasizes past actions without moving toward potential new approaches would not be constructive. We say this, however, only as a caution because we expect that this case will not come to pass. We trust that the administration has more in mind than a show-and-tell session.

At the same time, we would like to remind all of our fellow students that their participation is essential to making any impact. Yes, finals are looming and summer preparations are approaching full throttle, but when students are given a chance to communicate in a public space on such a pressing issue, it is vital that we don’t drop the ball. The conversations that have taken place this week demonstrate beyond any doubt that Pomona students—and students at the other 5Cs, as well as parents and alumni—care about the college's mental health policies. Let’s put that into action on Monday and Tuesday. Students must speak up at this time, and we are hopeful that the Women’s Union will be packed for both conversations.

As these discussions continue—for two forums cannot resolve these issues—we always welcome contributions to our Opinions section from any community members who feel that their voices are not being heard. (Please contact opinions@tsl.pomona.edu for more information.) However, we are only one forum for student voices, and we hope that the student body continues to make use of all the available opportunities on campus. As we've seen here, the waves made by individual stories can resonate throughout the entire community, and when they do, our community becomes better for it. We are grateful to those who make the powerful decision to speak up.