1. What is your role here at Ohlone and how long have you been here?
I’ve worked at Ohlone for 12 years. I work as an adjunct librarian, and what that means is I work at the library reference desk. I teach library instruction sessions, and I teach the library research class.
2. What comes to mind when you hear mental health?
I would say I think that mental health is on a continuum from people who are having a great deal of trouble functioning in their lives, all the way up to people who are highly functioning and that each of us is at some point on that continuum.
3. I know you are interested in sharing your struggles of mental health issues with students and others on campus. Can you talk about that?
I have struggled with postpartum depression and with depression and anxiety. I have also gotten a lot of help and I would like everyone to know that mental illness is treatable, with a combination of medicine and therapy. It is possible to get better. I would like students to know that if they are struggling they should take their discomfort seriously and reach out for help. There are many things that can help and many ways to get help.
I would like students to know that there are tools available to help with the distress of mental illness and that it’s important to find compassion for yourself, as you go through those struggles.
4. What would you tell someone that is experiencing what you went through?
One strategy that’s useful is to imagine that a friend of yours is going through similar circumstances and to imagine the compassion that you would show them and the advice you would give them, and try to give yourself the same advice and show yourself the same compassion.
5. What are some things you do to relax when stressed?
There are many techniques. Exercise is really important. I think of exercise as part of the treatment for mental illness. Distraction can be very helpful. If you’re right in the middle of a crisis there are a number of things you can do. One of them is to just go for a walk. If you’re sitting there with difficult feelings, just getting out and moving around can help a lot. I play games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. Getting out and about with my family helps me gain perspective. There are also cognitive behavioral therapy, such as thought distortion logs, that can ease tension.
6. What do you think Ohlone can do to provide a more supportive environment for students and help to de-stigmatize help-seeking behavior?
There are many things that Ohlone can and does do to provide support. Campus activities are helpful. They put on events that help provide a sense of community for students. Individual teachers showing compassion and understanding to their students makes a big difference. Any Ohlone staff person in whatever role, could make an impact on how students feel. I’m hopeful that the StepUp program will help provide a greater sense of community and a greater sense of support.
I’m hopeful that people like myself speaking up and being honest about their struggles with mental health issues will help students understand 1) that it’s not just them who experience difficulty and 2) help seeking behavior will get you to a place where you feel better and that’s the bottom line.