OPINION: The 5Cs must provide better mental health resources

Content Notice: Student Death

More than 500 students attended a vigil at Claremont McKenna College’s Butler Plaza Feb. 27 in remembrance of Jeremy Peterson and Eric Cramer. (Talia Bernstein • The Student Life)

The past few weeks have been immensely difficult for both students and faculty at the 5Cs. More than 500 people took part in a candlelit vigil in remembrance of the two students, Jeremy Peterson and Eric Cramer, whose deaths came within a week of each other.

In response, the 5Cs offered students a number of resources to cope with the losses, including licensed psychologists and accommodations for students who chose not to attend classes or submit work to deal with grief and/or their own mental health problems.

While helpful now, these resources should exist year-round to provide students the support they need to thrive at these academically rigorous colleges, where missing one day of class can be detrimental.

Students deal with loss in many ways, shapes and forms. The loss of loved ones, of relationships and even friendships that may be set adrift when coming to college can be impactful and sometimes consuming. Without adequate support, these losses can often branch into debilitating anxiety, loneliness and even isolation, which only makes functioning in a fast-paced college environment all the more difficult.

As with loss, coping takes a number of forms, and students who are unable to find the support they need may resort to substances, which will further worsen their condition. Students who speak to on-call deans about their use of substances and the reasons behind it often get an email following up, recommending a Monsour appointment for which there may be a wait time of several weeks.

Simply responding with an email referring students to Monsour does not suffice, especially when resources at Monsour are not readily available.

It’s a vicious cycle. Students’ grief can lead them to destructive coping mechanisms which only further pushes them into a deeper grief. Without the resources provided on a regular basis and in an accessible manner, there is little respite for students, and a comparatively small chance that they will be able to better their situation.

This cycle can be illustrated by the fact that the recent deaths weren’t the first student deaths this academic year.

In August, we mourned the loss of a student at Harvey Mudd College, Lawrence Vuong. However, after a single email summing up the incident and its tragic impact, no one heard about it again. There was no candlelit vigil, no remembrance, no support.

Similarly, after Peterson’s death and before Cramer’s, 5C students received an email delivering the “sad news from CMC” and an assurance that members of the colleges were there to provide support. No concrete support was given, no vigil was organized and the expectation was that life would continue as normal.

Students have long been asking for the right resources. It’s time the 5Cs respond.

Ananya Saluja PO ’22 is from New Delhi, India. She is hoping for the overcast Claremont skies to give way to the sun.

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