Mental health has been a prominent topic of discussion at colleges across the nation as of late. Recent conversation at the 5Cs has addressed issues brought up in an Opinions piece published in the April 18 issue of TSL by Yi Li PO ’14, who criticized the Pomona College policies that forced her to leave her residence hall and take involuntary medical leave. Even though Li addressed the Pomona administration, the
piece has generated discussion among students and administrators across the 5Cs about their respective schools’ mental health policies.
Sonia De La Torre-Iniguez,
assistant dean of students and director of academic support services
at Scripps College, wrote in an email to TSL that although Scripps can ask a student to leave a residence hall in an extreme
situation, such an action will not be the administration’s immediate response.
“Often, students have strong support systems and friend
communities in the residence halls that are critical in the self-management of
the mental health concerns,” she wrote. “As such, we recognize that removal from
the community sometimes can intensify the experiences.”
Vice President for Student Affairs Nathalie Rachlin added that this policy will
only be enforced in very extreme situations.
“You may look at the policies, but policies tend to be vague
because they need to apply to a broad spectrum of cases,” Rachlin said. “But in terms of mental
health issues, each case is different. So that’s why I’m
saying about this article that each case is different, and you cannot generalize
what happened to one person to what happened to the next person.”
Nick Carter HM ’15 wrote in an email to TSL that even though he is not struggling with mental health issues, he sees how such administrative policies are cause for concern.
“I want to know that I can count on my administration to be helpful and supportive if I need them,” Carter wrote. “This is a policy issue that can so easily stay hidden behind closed doors but should really be out in the open.”
Maddy Ruvolo SC ’14, president of the Disability, Illness, and Difference Alliance, said that administrative goals do not always reflect students’ best interests.
“I think the largest problem with regard to mental health on campus is that the administrations often consider liability concerns before they consider what is best for the student,” she said.
Rachlin disagreed, however.
“Rather than seeing the administration with a big A as this bureaucratic system, I think that students need to see particularly student affairs as a group of highly trained professionals who went into this profession because they want to help more than any office,” she said. “The last thing, I guarantee you, the last thing Dean of Students wants to do is to kick a student out.”
Caitlin Plefka PO ’13 & ’14, a 5C Mental Health Alliance co-founder and co-president, relates to the ongoing
discussion on campus through her lifelong struggle with depression and recent
developments of bipolar disorder and manic symptoms. Plefka said that the
biggest problem she sees in the treatment of mental health on campus is that Monsour
Counseling and Psychological Services, a resource for all students at the
Claremont University Consortium, is unable to provide long-term care for
“While Monsour does advertise that it has psychiatric
services available, currently that is limited to one provider who can schedule appointments
one day a week,” Plefka said. “That is not enough time, or it does not provide enough
availability of appointments to receive really adequate care from Monsour.”
Plefka said that she felt the psychologist she was seeing at Monsour
had not had enough experience dealing with bipolar disorder and that Monsour
did not provide any further guidance when she tried to seek outside help.
Monsour Director Gary DeGroot wrote to TSL that Monsour
is able to support students with a wide range of mental health concerns and
refer them to outside resources if they need other help. DeGroot added that
Monsour is prohibited by strict laws from informing administrators of students’
visits to Monsour unless a student signs a release or when a student “may pose an
imminent risk to themselves or others.”
“A student is considered potentially dangerous to themselves
or others if the student has limited impulse control to resist the urge to hurt
themselves or someone else,” DeGroot wrote. “Other criteria include if they
have resources to injure themselves and/or has lost awareness of reality to the
extent that they cannot care for themselves.”