Are Pomona College’s touted “Daring Minds” also healthy minds?
Pomona discussed the results of the Healthy Minds Study, a national survey that evaluates college students’ mental health, in a
forum held Oct. 12 for students and a panel of campus professionals. Some students who attended the discussion expressed concern over the survey and the administration’s handling of mental health.
Nine hundred Pomona students participated in the survey sent out via email in February. The presentation of the
results, which took place in Edmunds Ballroom, was followed by comments by the panel and a brief question and answer
Panelists included Adriana di
Bartolo, director of the Queer Resource Center; Gary DeGroot, director of Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services; Kevin Thomas, crisis therapist/clinical care manager at
Monsour; and Angela Grundy, associate dean of campus life and director of residential life.
The presentation by Associate Dean of Students for Student Support and Learning Jan
Collins-Eaglin highlighted various statistics drawn from the survey, presented adjacent to the national results. In an interview with TSL, Collins-Eaglin pointed to binge drinking and marijuana use as two outliers for Pomona compared to the national results. The rate of each was 10 percentage points above the national average.
The PowerPoint presentation shown at the discussion, including both results from the Healthy Minds study and details on Pomona’s mental health initiatives, is available on Sakai, in the ‘Dean of Students’ folder under the ‘Resources’ tab.
Chiara Dorigo PO ’15, co-president of the 5C Mental Health
Alliance, expressed surprise at Pomona’s general comparability to the national
“From both formal and informal conversations with my peers,
I have gotten the impression that Pomona students are much more consistently
stressed (and experience more of the various manifestations of stress) than the
general population,” she wrote in an email to TSL.
Andrea Green PO ’17, who attended the discussion, wrote in an email to TSL that while she found none of the statistics “terribly groundbreaking,” she questioned whether the results were representative of the campus.
“I found the average hours of sleep statistic shocking—I don’t remember the last time I got 7.4 hours of sleep here,” Green wrote. “Not in a bad way necessarily, but it makes me wonder if a lot of people who get fewer hours of sleep didn’t take the survey because they were too busy, so it was perhaps not a very representative population of Pomona.”
presentation on Sunday also included some of the measures that Pomona is taking to
combat mental health issues on campus. Mental health resources and administrative handling of mental health crises became a more prominent issue at Pomona last semester when Yi Li PO ’14 wrote an opinion piece for TSL in April describing her experience with involuntary psychiatric hospitalization and an alleged lack of understanding by the administration.
The Oct. 12 presentation pointed to increased collaboration with the Claremont University Consortium and Monsour’s hiring of several new staff members as steps in a positive direction.
However, Green remains doubtful.
“They’ve spent a lot of time this year talking about how they’ve been able to hire more people at Monsour and have more hours of counseling available, but they don’t talk much about Monsour’s quality or effectiveness, and from what I’ve heard, it isn’t very good,” Green wrote. “In mental health, quality is just as important, if not more important, than quantity.”
Green also commented that the college’s response to Li’s article left her questioning whether the administration is handling mental health properly.
“Honestly, I wish they were more transparent about their protocol,” Green wrote. “I personally want to avoid blaming the administration entirely … but these stories really do make students afraid to talk about any issues, and then bottling it up makes it worse.”
The presentation also focused on collaboration with student groups. Collins-Eaglin emphasized to TSL that student groups or classes who would like to hear the presentation may contact the Dean of Students office.
“There is always room
for improvement in the way we work with the administration,” Dorigo wrote. “I think
the administration is realizing, however, that regardless of the volume of resources
it has available for addressing its various needs, coalitional work with
existing groups on campus is extremely valuable.”