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We Are Oberlin

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Eric J

on 11 June 2014

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Transcript of We Are Oberlin

We Are Oberlin _____________

Focus Group Participants, Hannah Daneshvar, Katie Leader, Caroline Mills, Katherine Pardue, Caroline Meister, Sam Paltrow-Krulwich.

The Office of Disability Services; Student Athletic Advisory Committee; Office of Religious and Spiritual Life; Dean of Students Office; Oberlin Student Cooperative Association (OSCA); OSCA Sexual Offense Policy Advocates; Sexual Information Center.

Eric Estes, Cindy Frantz, Matthew Hayden, Meredith Raimondo, Greggor Mattson, Jan Cooper, John Harshbarger, Randal Doane.

Mary and Steve Hammond, John Elder, David Hill, Andy Call.

Deb, Wes, and Erin Bergen.


Seven Focus Groups; 32 Participants:
Program Houses
Office of Religious and Spiritual Life
Bonner Scholars
Office of Disability Services
Secondary Research:
"Mental Health Programming: Recommendations for Change"
College Student Mental Health
Models for Mental and Emotional Well-Being



1. Oberlin is not unique; that is no excuse
2. Our knowledge and experience is limited
3. We don't all need the same things
4. Students know ourselves best
5. This is everyone's problem
6. Context matters

1. Greater Education on Mental Health
"When we talk about professors and administrators who aren't trained to deal with mental health stuff, its not a neutral place, you have to know how not to exacerbate the situation."

2. Advertise Resources
"I’d like to see some solidarity on the part of departments to publicize the resources that are there . . . . .One person in that department who is a point person. Having something acknowledged that there is a connection, and the connection does exist in academics, this isn’t just a Student Life issue, this is an academic calendar issue, this is a mid-terms-scheduling issue."

3. Accommodations: Attendance Policies & Deadlines
"I have PTSD . . . . I need relaxed attendance policies, teachers who say, 'yo, you're fifteen minutes late but congratulations you made it to class.'"



Trained Support

1. Educate!
“Education for students - what is a traumatic incident? how does it function? how does trauma express itself? how do addictions work? how does trauma inform interpersonal relationships? Let’s talk about different therapy models, so we can learn positive coping skills.”

“People have to recognize alcohol abuse, at a certain point its not just kids having fun. At certain points it’s a coping mechanism. We’re taught to look like there’s nothing wrong."

2. Advocate!
"I still have to remind myself that I deserve the support that I should get, I shouldn’t have to wait until I have a panic attack and end up in a psyche ward to say 'maybe I am that bad.'"

3. Validate!
"So many people I care about are also under similar kinds of strain . . . we can't support each other as much as we want to, and we deal with these challenges in isolation, which is absurd."

"If you don't have anything—the politics, the look—then its different, its scarier. I think people are afraid to be different, to say something wrong."
Office of Disability Services

Dean of Students / Counseling Center

Res Ed Dean of Studies

Literature Review!
of students "felt overwhelmed by all [they] had to do"
any time in the last twelve months

in the last two weeks
(NCHA Fall 2012).

Nationally, 86.8% of students felt this way in the last twelve months, 51.1% in last two weeks (NCHA Spring 2012).

"Sleep, schoolwork, and socializing—you choose two."

"The people who talk about doing a million things, doing so much work, and being really intense about classes—a lot of the time, the same people will talk about having serious stress and anxiety and shit."

"[You can be] completely overwhelmed with classes and clubs and stuff but you still fell like you're not doing what you want to be doing. So you want to take time off."

"I have to prove that I’m not just that black person who got into Oberlin because I filled that quota . . . . I have to represent my people. There aren’t that many of us black natural science people. There’s maybe two in each department in each graduating class, or one, or none in Chemistry that graduated last year. No one else is telling me that I’m the dumbest person, but I’ve felt a lot of that from myself."

"There are no babies on this campus, and its such a weird grouping. This is not how communities exist, that's not how we are supposed to relate to each other."

“The relationships you build with people is one of the biggest things. Last year I was trying to stay so on top of school that I didn’t have time to build relationships with people. Finding the time to build relationships is hard, and once the stress of the semester builds up those relationships are compromised. A fast-paced school or work environment means that personal relationships aren’t valued because what you’re supposed to do is study.”

"Community members at [church] are very welcoming, and being off campus is very meaningful, and being with people not between the ages of 18 to 22 is wonderful. Those pastors are very helpful, they have students over to their house a lot and they provide perspective."
"People don't feel comfortable talking about how they don't have it together."

"There's a culture in activist and 'more radical' communities that you have to have your radical cred or you're not worth paying attention to. Its kind of difficult if you're trying to learn - 'what do you mean you don't know what trans misogyny is!'"

"[When you come to college] you are taken out of your old ways of coping and forced to adapt and create new ways of coping, and in my experience everything else flared up . . . . We don't really talk about eating disorders, self harm, alcoholism, other forms of addiction, sex and love addiction. We don't talk about trauma here."

"Even having focus groups like this more regularly could be really cool . . . . Being able to get it out here in this space is really cool."

"Minimally adequate treatment was received by only 22% of students." (Eisenberg & Chung, 213)
"[The Counseling Center] was accessible for me personally because I had the time to go there, but I feel like for a lot of people . . . physically too! And their hours are terrible! And weekend hours! And get more people to work there!"

"When I first started talking to the Office of Disability Services, because I didn't have my mental stuff documented, they were flat out ignoring it."
"There are resources here but they are not pointed at diagnosing and helping . . . . There aren’t really 12-step groups here. There aren’t really like therapists who know their shit. There aren’t professors who are trauma-trained or trauma-aware. If we can have the SIC talking about everything, why can’t we have someone diagnosing PTSD?"

“The fact that professors don’t know the basics about mental health is really irresponsible of the school. I have a sleep disorder, but I still get penalized. I try to explain that that isn’t something I can control, but…”
1. Work with Faculty; Better Accommodations for Eating Disorders
"I’ve struggled with an eating disorder in the past, and I was told that getting more flex points wasn’t an option and I should go talk to the Nutritionist, and this person didn’t seem to get that sometimes food is really hard for me."

2. Resources for Non-Diagnosed Students
"I couldn’t have any of [my] problems documented where I’m from because a lot of the problems come from my family environment and a particular family member who snuck into my medical records . . . . I couldn’t stay in dorms because any small noise would wake me up. When I first started talking to the Office of Disability Services, because I didn’t have my mental stuff documented they were flat out ignoring it"
1. Peer Advocates
"I wish there was an Office of Advocates. If I'm having a breakdown, who do I talk to? You have to fight so hard for yourself, and you can't do that when you're having a breakdown."

2. Peer Support Groups
"More conversations like this [focus group] need to happen."

1. Location
"From November to March, the Counseling Center is legitimately far away and it plays a factor in you deciding whether this is an emergency or if you need to go or not."

2. Funding: Increased Staff, Walk-In Hours, 24-hour hotline, Outreach
"If its not a crisis, if you’re not suicidal, then the goal is to get you to an outside provider. Its really unfortunate, I don’t think that the Counseling Center has the resources or staff to really help, and you end up feeling cheated or abandoned."

3. Supporting Student Agency in Diagnosis & Prescription
"There are also a lot of experiences that can’t easily be put under a diagnosis. I want more conversations about mental health specific to this place. It is hard to tease out what is me and what is Oberlin College, and eventually I had to decide which was easier to change, and it was me, and it meant medication."
1. Expand Housing Options for Students with Mental Health Needs
"ResEd and the Judicial System punish students instead of encouraging them to get help or protecting the people that are hurt."

"We need sane housing policies. There is a lot of money to be made from ResEd . . . . We end up cutting ourselves off from town and living as immature as possible for four years."

1. Greater Emotional Support in Medical Leave Process
"So many people feel stuck, they can't stay here but going home is not an option. I felt like I needed to get out and there was pressure to defend my position."

"When I met with [administrator] I felt like they thought I was trying to scam the system. I felt so insulted by how I was treated."
1. Create Conservatory-Specific Resources
"We asked what is the Conservatory doing to make mental health more of a priority, and the answer was, 'you have your teachers and your Deans, but you can also go across the street to the College, they have a lot of great resources.' So, nothing."

"No one ever says, 'hey, how about I don't be in twelve clubs and the president of two things, how about I just take a small course load and drink tea in the afternoon."

"There is a lot of glory in being the busiest person and always going from meeting to meeting. I've been one of those people for my friends. It takes its toll."
"Finances. That's always been the case. Jobs prevent me from doing schoolwork, but I'm doing them so I can do schoolwork. Some of my friends have used up their loans but they still have money they need to pay."

"There’s a lot of pressure to be productive during breaks - do a service trip, some people go home and have fun. I stay and do sports, and this past semester I had seven games and it was horrible. Are you fucking kidding me, leave me the hell alone! . . . . I literally have no concept of what a vacation is.”
54.3% of Oberlin students named Academics as "traumatic or very difficult to handle." (NCHA 2012)

"21 [out of 29] respondents stated that they had experienced academically-derived stress." (Daneshvar, 36)

"Then we get to class and the professor is like ‘oh, you look stressed, so I won’t grade this as hard or it will be five questions that I write on the board, so all the stress you put into studying doesn’t matter any more.’"
Space to Fail
Space to Heal
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American College Health Association. “National College Health Association: Oberlin College Executive Summary Fall 2012.” Hanover, MD: American College Health Association, 2012.

American College Health Association. “National College Health Association: Undergraduate Reference Group Executive Summary Spring 2012.” Hanover, MD: American College Health Association, 2012.

Anderson-Fye, Eileen and Jerry Floersch. “‘I’m Not Your Typical ‘Homework Stresses Me Out’ Kinda Girl”: Psychological Anthropology in Research on College Student Usage of Psychiatric Medications and Mental Health Services.” Journal of the Society of Psychological Anthropology 39 (2011): 501-515

Chung, Genry, et al. “A Pilot for Improving Depression Care on College Campuses: Results of the College Breakthrough Series-Depression (CBS-D) Project.” Journal of American College Health 59 (2011).

Cokley, Kevin, Shannon McClain, Alicia Enciso, and Mercedes Martinez. “An Examination of the Impact of Minority Status Stress and Imposter Feelings on the Mental Health of Diverse Ethnic Minority College Students.” Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development 41 (April 2013).

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Daneshvar, Hannah. "Mental Health Programming: Recommendations for Change." August 2013.

Eisenberg, Daniel and Henry Chung. “Adequacy of Depression Treatment Among College Students in the United States.” General Hospital Psychiatry 34 (May/June 2012): 213-220.

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