This week’s Special Features section is, in no small part, a result of the efforts of students who have tried to start a conversation about mental illness at the Claremont Colleges. These activists, through their contributions to the 5C clubs Active Minds and Let’s DO Something, have convinced many students—including the editorial board of TSL—that we need to act to reduce the suffering of those who live with mental illnesses in Claremont.
As Caroline Ebinger reports in her article in Special Features, Active Minds and Let’s DO Something have hosted panels this semester in which 5C students talked about how mental disorders have affected them, either directly or indirectly. Because they seek to end the silence surrounding mental illness, these panels represent an excellent first step toward eliminating the stigma that too often prevents people from openly seeking treatment. We especially admire the courage of the student panelists who attacked the stigma head-on by speaking publicly and unapologetically about experiences that are conventionally thought of as private or shameful.
We hope that these panels will encourage more 5C students to tell their own stories about mental illness. If students manage to create the kind of dialogue that Active Minds and Let’s DO Something are seeking, people who live with mental disorders will be less likely to feel that they must suffer alone.
Students, however, are not the only 5C community members who should contribute to the effort to make life with a mental illness more manageable. Administrators of the Claremont University Consortium can help by improving the resources offered by Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services. As Monsour Director Gary DeGroot suggests in Anna Petkovich’s article, Claremont students would benefit from a larger staff of therapists, which would reduce the typical wait time for appointments.
Monsour already compares favorably with other university counseling centers, but this is no reason to stop adding to the mental health services available at the 5Cs. Our schools have the opportunity to set a positive example for other colleges and universities by putting mental health among their highest priorities.
It can be easy to forget that mental illness exists at the 5Cs, especially when the Princeton Review tells us that two of America’s 10 happiest student bodies are in Claremont. Catherine Chiang is right to point out in her Opinions article this week that the perception of uniform happiness in Claremont puts pressure on students to seem content, even when they are not. This pressure affects almost all 5C students at some point—after all, anyone can have a bad day—but it becomes an especially serious problem when it encourages students to hide mental illnesses.
We are not suggesting that 5C students and administrators should stop taking pride in Claremont’s culture of happiness. But this pride should be tempered with an understanding that not everyone is happy—or even mentally healthy—at all times. Claremont students who suffer from mental illness should not be allowed to feel that their experience is illegitimate simply because it does not match the college brochure.