What does Delta college do to make the campusmore communal?
There are eventsor programs on campus that attempt to mitigate or alleviate feelings of anxiety or depression, but more can be done. Having an actual physical space where students can come and decompress is one important aspect.
A second is creating a sense of community for those who seek it out, like organizing a book club where we are reading from LGBT authors. We can do movie nights or game days. These clubs and activities bring people together and create friendships, relationships. Seeing others going through similar things helps to alleviate those feelings of being alone that can contribute to anxiety or depression. I believe it’s important to create that sense of community and that visibility on campus.
Third is to have a student support service center, maybe even a mental health service center. We don't have a health center on campus, either.
Last, it would be nice to have some sort of student hub, like a union, where all the student support services are located — like have the Pride Center next to foster youth services and veteran’s services. Then a student can go to one space and see all the services available for them.
[Katelynn notes that the community college in Sacramento has a health center where you can at least get free condoms to be safe.]
Yeah, it's sort of unusual for a community college our size to not have a health center. Especially with the health disparities that exist here in San Joaquin county.
I know some people think that goes beyond the scope of what a community college should do. Delta’s not a social services agency. But when health and mental health issues are affecting academic performance, it’s in the community college’s best interests to address them. Even if it can't provide a health center, then build strong relationships with services in the community.
If a student who comes into your office seems stressed out, what service do you help to provide?
It depends on the specific situation. If it’s a crisis, I’d make sure the student is getting connected to a crisis counselor or a crisis intervention service. If it’s not acrisis,Iusuallycallcounseling,make areferraloremaila counselor to check for available appointments. I’ve also walked students down to the counseling office, even if it wasn’t a crisis.
In your work her with the LGBT community, do you see a lot of depression or mental illness?
Yes. The LGBT community population nationally has higher rates of anxiety, depression, substance abuse, incidents of self-harm and attempted suicide, all caused by outside stressors. A lot of people read that as: “Oh, higher rates in the LGBT, so there is something wrong with being LGBT.”
But it’s not that — it’s all the other things like unaccepting parents, friends who cast you aside, feeling like you don't belong somewhere.
Especially if you are LGBT and low income — then it can be evenworse.
What can we do to make sure your voice is heard?
In my trainings, I talk about being a visible and a vocal ally. Being vocal just means mentioning LGBT concerns, so when there are discussions about mental health, we can say, “Okay, maybe we can talk about specific populations, like the LGBT community.” Those students may have unique experiences that affect their mental health service needs. We also have to be vocal with staff of community mental health services, making sure they’ve been trained in LGBT issues or concerns and that they don’t have any biases. Then we simply have to let students know that that resource is there.
Like you said, Celine, you didn’t even know the Pride Center existed. If we have an LGBT-awareness campaign, show up and say, “I’m here and making a commitment to be an ally to this community.”