Pomona’s Women’s Union Hosts Conversations About Mental Health

In response to student concerns about Pomona College’s mental health policies, the Dean of Students Office hosted
conversations April 28-29 at the Women’s Union (WU) that focused on services and mental health policies, including those surrounding hospitalization. The discussions were co-sponsored by the Mental Health Alliance, the Associated Students of Pomona College, and a campus mental health working group composed of students and faculty and staff members. 

Approximately 60 students attended the event on Monday, and 25 students attended on
Tuesday, with some overlap between the two. The discussions were guided by Jan Collins-Eaglin, associate dean of students for student support and learning, and Miriam Feldblum, dean of students; the two encouraged students to express their concerns about Pomona’s mental health care policies and
practices.

Aurora Mariel PO ’16, who works for the WU and attended the discussion on both Monday and
Tuesday, said that the conversation Monday night was “combative” because the
administration, up to that point, had not provided a similar opportunity for students to voice concerns about Pomona’s mental health care policies. However, she recognized a change during Tuesday’s discussion. 

“Tuesday, it made me feel better because it seemed like they [Feldblum and Collins-Eaglin] had listened to what we had to say and it
wasn’t perfect, but it seemed like they were receptive and willing to change
things,” she said.

Hoping to continue with the discussion, Mariel set up a follow-up conversation that took
place on Wednesday, April 30 at the WU.

“The intentions were to have a space to have students get out their
ideas, how they felt about the talks, and what we can do as students to maybe
make things different,” she said. “So it was more of a brainstorming process, like, ‘What’s
next?’”

Feldblum said that she hopes to continue these kinds of conversations in the fall with the class of 2018.

“We will have more in place this coming year for incoming students
around wellness,” Feldblum said in an interview with TSL. “Certainly, one place is starting with the
first-year class and working with the Sponsor Program.”

Apart from emphasizing mental health issues during training for sponsors and residential advisers, Feldblum pointed out other steps
that the college is taking to improve mental health services. One of the steps was the introduction of the Healthy Minds Survey, which was conducted early
in the semester and received approximately 900 responses from students.

“We get back those results in the fall, and the campus mental health
working group will be disseminating conversations,” she said. “We’ll be thinking about, ‘How
does this inform our priorities and plans moving forward?’”

Feldblum said that although it is vital to address mental
health concerns for the upcoming first-year class, especially throughout orientation, the school must also address
the grievances of sophomores, juniors, and seniors. She said that this will be targeted through the creation of support groups and workshops.

“The mental health working group is already thinking, and my
office is already thinking in terms of working with Monsour to develop some
different kinds of support groups,” she said. 

Mariel said that talks such as the ones
that took place Monday and Tuesday should not be forgotten, and that discussion should be continued to ensure that students’ needs are met.  

“That’s why I feel like the student discussions are so important—because we keep this conversation going,” she said. “And this isn’t going to be it. We’re going to make sure more change is happening.” 

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