Let’s Chat About Mental Health

Now that we’ve gotten our first semester of college under our belts, let’s talk about stress.

 

 

I don’t know if it’s a byproduct of being in the honors college or if there’s just something in the water at Penn State, but I’ve seen more stressed out teenagers in the past six months than I’ve ever seen in my life.  With regular midterms, papers, and extracurricular demands, college students are under a lot of pressure.  The wailing of ambulance sirens is frighteningly common in Happy Valley, marking the consequences of another student pushed past their breaking point.  It seems to me there’s a problem we’re not dealing with.

 

 

Despite having common experiences, many of us don’t feel comfortable expressing our emotions and anxieties.  As I mentioned in my article about mental health discrimination, we grow up learning that anxiety and loneliness are weaknesses – most of us have spent years developing the perfect happy face; we refuse to reveal the intense feelings inside.  Our mental health is critical to our success in school and in our lives beyond, and it’s infuriating to see mental health discrimination pervading our culture.  The more we age, the higher our walls grow – we learn as children that successful people show no weakness, so we try to hide ours.

 

 

I vote we change that pattern.

 

 

The Penn State University Health Services offers CAPS chats in all the housing commons – the weekly meetings are an amazing opportunity to check in with other students who are just as stressed out as you and me.  Some chats have themes, like self-care or time management, while others are an open forum for students to come and talk about what’s going on in their lives.  Here is the chats schedule, pulled from the Penn State Student Affairs Site:

 

CAPS Chat in the Commons

  • Pollock Commons Monday 2-4pm (Pollock Halls: Residence life office)
  • Warnock Commons Tuesday 2-4pm (North Halls: Cultural Lounge)
  • Redifer Commons Wednesday 2-4pm (South Halls: Residence life office)
  • Waring Commons Thursday 2-4pm (West Halls: Cultural Lounge)
  • Johnston Commons Friday 10am-12pm (East Halls: Residence life office)

CAPS Chat at the Law School (For Law Students and SIA Students)

  • Law School – office #310 Thursday 12:30-2:30pm

LGBTQA Student Resource Center

  • 101 Boucke Building Monday 2-4pm
  • 101 Boucke Building Wednesday 2-4pm

MRC

  • 220 Grange Building Tuesday 12:30-2:30pm (Only on 2/13, 3/13, and 4/3)

PRCC

  • 21 HUB – Robeson Center Wednesday 2:30-4:00pm (bi-weekly, 1/24, 2/7, 3/7, 3/21, 4/4, and 4/18)

 

 

There is no pressure to come every week or to go to the same place every time – that’s the beauty of CAPS Chats!  I encourage each and every one of you to go to at least one chat sometime this semester; college is stressful, and CAPS is being proactive about giving us a place to let some of it go.  Make your mental health a priority – college is busy, difficult, and stressful, and it’s the best time of our lives – let’s make sure we’re able to enjoy it.

 

 

No matter who you are, stress and anxiety is part of your life – we all deal with it.  Let’s come together and chat about it; who knows, maybe we’ll finally start to feel better.

WE CAN Get Involved: Apply For Straight Talks!

First off, it was incredible to see all of you at the Women’s March on Saturday.  There were between 500 and 1,000 men, women, and children that gathered at the Allen Street Gates to commemorate the one year anniversary of the Women’s March on Washington.  I met all kinds of incredible people on Saturday, from a six/seven year old in a Wonder Woman costume, to an elderly woman with a pocket constitution attached to her tricorn hat.  It was clear from the march that it was so much more than women fighting for women’s rights – we were marching for all human rights.

 

Here’s a quick slideshow of pictures from the march  (‘Quiet’ by MILCK was first debuted at the Women’s March in D.C.)

 

Okay, now onto today’s content.  

 

 

If you know anything about me, you know that I am extremely vocal about my support of LGBTQA rights.  If you don’t know me at all, well, know you know.  I grew up with two moms, and I have always believed that, if and whenever I meet somebody I want to spend my life with, I should have the legal right to do that without discrimination, regardless of their gender.  

 

 

My convictions about LGBT rights have only grown since I came to Penn State, and I’ve ended up arranging both my classes and extracurricular activities in a way where I can do as much research (and blogging, of course) about LGBT rights as possible.  If you recall my post from last fall, I visited the LGBTQA Student Resource Center in 101 Boucke to meet the student staffers and to see what I could do to get involved.

 

 

As any Penn Stater could guess, I ended up on an email ListServ.

 

 

One of my more recent emails included an invitation for students to join the Straight Talks program – it’s a peer education program where students act as ambassadors of the Student Resource Center and work with other clubs and groups on campus to spread awareness for sexual and gender diversity.  It’s an incredible opportunity for Penn State students to get involved in promoting LGBT rights right here in Happy Valley. There will be two training sessions on February 11th and 25th for students accepted to the program. Here’s how you can apply:

 

 

  1. Email straight-talks@psu.edu to let them know you’re interested
  2. Fill out this application

 

 

**The deadline for the email and application is Thursday, February 1st.**

 

 

I’m sure you all got my point here, but I can’t stress it enough: APPLY TO THIS PROGRAM!!  Regardless of whether you end up speaking to campus organizations or not, doing the training for this program will make a difference in how you interact with the world.  Just speaking with students and staff at the LGBTQA Student Resource Center can help you widen your perspective and be more aware of discrimination on campus.  Apply for the Straight Talks program, and see what I mean.

 

 

I hope to see you all at training!

(For more information about Straight Talks, see the LGBTQA Student Center’s Info Page)

New Year, Same Fight: It’s Time To Unite

Before I get started, let’s recap.

 

Last semester, I started this blog as a way to talk about how discrimination pervades our life on campus, and to raise awareness to the issues we face as students at Penn State.  We discussed issues like racism, mental health and religious discrimination, sexism, and homophobia.  You listened, quite patiently, while I ranted about the injustices that infect Happy Valley, and hopefully found some of the campus resources helpful in answering your further questions.

 

 

This semester will be a little different.

 

 

While there are still many more forms of discrimination to talk about, I want to expand on what we’ve already touched on.  Throughout this spring semester, I want to talk about some specific things we can do on campus to make a difference – let’s go one step above being aware, and be active!

 

 

That being said, the first of many opportunities is this Saturday, January 20th.  In continuation of the 2017 Women’s March on D.C., there will be a sister march on Allen Street at 9:30 a.m.  This march is an incredible opportunity for us to stand up against sexism and join the conversation about women’s rights on campus and in America.  You may remember my article on sexism from last semester – this march is a way to get involved in changing some of the institutions that continue to place female students at the lower end of the totem pole.  Penn State is not the only place affected by gender bias, and Women’s March is tackling these issues head on.  Some of the categories included in the Women’s March Mission  are violence, civil rights, LGBTQA rights, reproductive rights, immigrant rights, and a myriad of others.  Whatever issues affect you, whether it’s here at Penn State or at home or at work or anywhere else, attending this march is one simple way for you to get involved and make sure that WE ARE equal.

 

 

One quick note before I wrap up: the Women’s March and it’s goals are for everyone, not just a narrow demographic of women.  Women’s rights affect everyone in our country and around the world, and it will take the combined efforts of all people to make a change in the way women are treated in Happy Valley and the United States.  With that said, bundle up and come out to Allen Street!  No matter who you are, where you come from, what your major is, we need you to come out and support the fight for equality.  

 

 

Adding your voice and your passion to the Allen Street Women’s March (Details here!) is a super simple way to get involved in the fight for women’s rights on campus.  No matter what it is you’re fighting for; black rights, native rights, LGBTQA rights, religious tolerance, or any other issue, your presence at the march will make a difference.  Leave me a comment and tell me what you’re fighting for – and even better, tell me in person while we march!  

 


(Last year’s Sister March was held on Allen Street to show support for the Women’s March on D.C.)

WE ARE Human: WE ALL Have The Right To Love

I was raised by two women.  When my mom and dad divorced, my mom moved in with a good friend of hers who was also getting divorced.  What was originally a temporary living situation became my family, and together my moms have raised my sister and me with as much love and support as any kids could want.  As a little girl, it never occurred to me that having two mothers was unusual.  I had parents just like most other kids, right?  

 

In fact, it wasn’t until my freshman year of high school that I realized just how prevalent homophobia is in our culture.  Seeing the hateful ideologies some of my peers had truly disturbed me, and here at Penn State I am making it my goal to promote acceptance and inclusion of all sexualities – love is love, and that’s it.

 

Our first step in changing our society’s perspective is being well informed.  Several of my papers and presentations for RCL137 this semester have examined LGBTQA history, and I have news for you; the world wasn’t always homophobic.  In fact, before the rise of Western culture, the entire world was a place that was inclusive of homosexuality and transgenderism.

 

Regardless of how our culture came to view homosexuality as taboo, we have a responsibility to change it.  We have to overcome the stigma our culture has imposed and return the world to a state where love and marriage are not restricted to a man and woman alone.  Humanity is so much more diverse than that, and we need to recognize that love is more diverse as well.

 

Penn State’s LGBTQA Student Resource Center is a great place to start if you are looking for information.  The Center offers different workshops and discussion groups as well as a safe place to hang out (They also have free LGBTQA pins, I currently have about ten of them!).  The Center works to promote awareness and positive social change in the Penn State community regarding LGBTQA issues.  Getting involved in the Center and in other inclusive efforts on campus is the number one way that we as students can actively make a difference.

 

Happy Valley is a place that promotes diversity and inclusion as one of its core values, but do we really see that being lived out here at University Park?  No matter what positive changes we’ve made at Penn State, there is more work to do.  We the students must actively fight for a campus that not only accepts and includes different genders and sexualities, but embraces them.  Our work is not done until same sex marriage and transgenderism is considered as normal and natural as heterosexuality is viewed today.

 

WE ARE Penn State, WE ARE all human, and WE ALL have the right to love.

 

Take My Points: It’s Time To Play Fairly

On Thursday night the Schreyhards held their first official IM flag football game.  We lost, by a lot, but our matching lime green t-shirts and unwavering support of each other absolutely made up for our poor athletic skills.  

 

However, there was one thing that put a damper on my experience of our first game.  We were playing another coed team, and when one of the girls scored a touchdown, the ref yelled out, “9 point touchdown!”  I looked around in confusion, until one of my teammates informed me that girls get 3 extra points for a touchdown, not including the extra point.  I don’t know about you, but that’s simply wrong.

 

Before I go further into this, I do understand the motive behind this absurd rule. Coed teams, like high school gym classes, are notorious for being male dominated and unencouraging of female players.  Penn State is trying to fix that problem by giving girls a leg up; we earn an extra 3 points for every touchdown, and on certain plays male QBs canonly throw to a female receiver.  The idea behind this is that guy players will be more likely to include us girls.  Despite this being a well intentioned policy, this is not the way to promote equality on campus.

 

Penn State promotes diversity and inclusion as an integral part of its mission, but we have a long way to go to make that a reality here in Happy Valley.  I love this school and I am so grateful for the incredible opportunities that it offers us – that being said, sexism is still alive and well at Dear Old State, and we have to change that.  Our professors have always emphasized that we the students can create the campus we want to see, and it’s time we listen to them and do something about campus sexism.  WE ARE capable of changing for the better, and it’s about time we do.

 

As a community of students who can directly affect our campus, we can start by requesting information and spreading awareness.  The Penn State Gender Equity Center is taking on the challenge of opposing sexual violence and harassment; this could be an excellent opportunity for us to start our fight against sexism.  By speaking to members of the Gender Equity Center, we can request a program that actively promotes, well, gender equity.  The Center has done wonderful things so far, and tackling sexism would be an incredibly important addition to their mission.

 

We can also get out on our own to spread our message of gender equality.  Girls, talk to your teams and ask the ref to give equal scoring for touchdowns.  Guys, this is not just your game; we’re not on the team to boost your score.  Challenge the status quo and reject sexist rules; play the game fairly or don’t play at all.  Sure, we lose the “advantage” of the extra points, but are those 3 points worth our dignity as equal members of a team?

Stronger Than Fear: WE CAN Make the Difference

   

Do you see these women, cloaked in fabric and anonymity?  Who do you think they worship?  These women are Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, and all three of their religions are founded on the ideals of love and acceptance.

 

 On May 25th, 2015, Samantha Elauf got the news that the Supreme Court was ruling in her favor in her lawsuit against the popular clothing brand Abercrombie&Fitch.  The legal proceedings began in 2008 when Samantha was 17, and she sued the brand for religious discrimination, claiming the company refused to hire her because her religious hijab “clashed with their dress code.”  After a 7 year struggle, Samantha finally won her case; she had proven that hiring decisions based on religion ARE a form of discrimination.

 

Samantha is one of the lucky ones however.  Our country is deep in the middle of a social crisis, and it’s time that the students of Penn State get involved in fixing it.

 

Religious discrimination is as rampant in the world as it was in the 40s, it just takes a different form.  Antisemitism and islamophobia are words that have become all too common in the news, often accompanied by horror stories of violence and prejudice.  In recent years we’ve seen an increase of destruction to synagogues and mosques, let alone the toll taken on human life.  Even on our campus, I have heard people making hateful slurs, dehumanizing those who worship a different way.  Their words come from ignorance and fear of what they don’t understand.  This is unacceptable, and it has to stop.

 

It is up to us to make the difference.

 

The first step in combating discrimination is to know what our resources are.  The  Center for Spiritual and Ethical Development provides us our starting point here.  The Pasquerilla Center  (next to the Forum if any of you are wondering) offers students a place to practice faith of every kind; services for eleven different religions including atheism are held in the same building.  This is an incredible opportunity for us to learn about different religions and create an interfaith student network that opposes religious discrimination.

 

Aside from the opportunities we are offered by the school, we can create our own movement.  WE ARE Penn State, and WE ARE capable of making a difference.  When we overhear somebody making hateful slurs in the HUB, it’s our job to intervene and point out prejudice.  I know I would be nervous standing up to somebody in public like that, but the good that speaking out can do for our community will more than make up for our hesitation to rock the boat.  

 

Penn State is an incredible institution that is dedicated to helping its students thrive; we need to be students that are committed to helping each other survive.  We need to be the Samantha Elaufs and challenge the opinion that believes religion determines personal value.  WE ARE stronger than fear, and WE CAN make a difference.

Stand Up to Stigma: Mental Health Is Not A Joke

Let’s talk about mental illness.  

 

On a campus with 40,000 students, it’s too big of an issue to ignore.  Penn State is a community of incredibly diverse people, and each one of us facing different internal obstacles.  Our society looks at mental illness as a sign of incompetence and unintelligence, and we have been raised to make fun of those who openly admit to having struggles.  As we wrestle with living on our own, making decisions about our life’s path, and dealing with our own issues, we are forced to paste on a smile and pretend to be happy because we have learned that anything else makes us targets for ridicule.

 

That needs to change.

 

We as students need to start living our realities, and dealing openly with our mental illnesses.  I have battled crippling anxiety for most of my life, and I no longer have the energy to hide it.  Mental illnesses like eating disorders, depression, and mood conditions are rampant on college campuses, and I know I am not the only one who is afraid of expressing what I am really dealing with.  Making fun of people with struggles only exacerbates the problem, and has created one of the biggest issues of discrimination that teenagers face today.

 

So what can we do about it?  How do we combat the voices that tell us we’re weak for having  depression, that we’re attention-seeking for having a mood disorder, that we’re stupid for being anxious?  What can we as Penn Staters do?

 

Well, we can talk about it for starters.  CAPS, Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services, is providing us with the opportunity to be open about our personal struggles.  In addition to one on one counseling for students, CAPS offers public group discussions to help students openly invest in their mental health.  By establishing a community where we can speak candidly about the obstacles we face, Penn State can become a more supportive campus that allows its students to deal with their lives honestly, without pretending to be problem-free.  Addressing the issue is the first step towards resolving it, and it’s incredibly important that we as students get involved in opportunities like this, not only to help ourselves, but to help our peers as well.

 

As prevalent as mental illness is, it’s time for us to start acknowledging the issues people face.  When childhood bullying becomes adult harassment, we need to stand up against the voices of ridicule and become a community that supports its students.  By talking openly about our struggles, and showing willingness to listen to and help our peers, we can challenge our society’s warped perspective of mental illness.  WE ARE a community made of all kinds of people with all kinds of problems, and together we can commit to adopting strategies to make our campus a healthier place.

Actively Advocating: Not Being Racist Isn’t Enough

We need to address the elephant in the room.  This elephant wears a white sheet and carries a flaming torch, but it also wears a business suit and teaches children a whitewashed view of history.  White supremacy is rampant in our culture, and it’s about time that our campus addresses the very real issue that racism presents today.

 

Last night I attended a panel discussion discussing racism and white supremacy following the events in Charlottesville, VA last month.  I was anxious to go, as I hadn’t had the opportunity to be part of a forum like this before.  I left the Pattee Library two hours later in an almost trance-like state of awe; it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.  Six professors talked to us, answering our questions and giving me a whole new understanding of how racism pervades everyday American life.

 

Each of the speakers debunked a different myth surrounding the events of Charlottesville; the one I’d like to share with you is the idea that these white supremacists came out of nowhere.  Dr. Cynthia Young, the department head of the African American Studies Department, opened the panel by discussing the ways in which white supremacy is enabled by government inaction.  As the conversation evolved throughout the night, Professor Courtney Morris challenged us to be intentionally anti-racism, reminding us that on both governmental and individual levels, “It is not enough to simply not be racist.”

 

I could go on forever about the discussion last night, but for time’s sake I’ll leave you the link to the Daily Collegian’s review of the panel here.  What I want to talk about today is what we as students can do to stand up to racism on campus.

 

Dr. Jeanine Staples introduced a way of tackling the issue of white supremacy in a way I had never thought of before.  She explained how macroaggressions (like the events of Charlottesville) bring global attention to the problem, but that microaggressions, the subtle everyday ways that racism pervades our society, are what allow white supremacy to flourish.  She challenged us to look critically at the world we live in, and find ways in which white-bias affects our culture.  For us that means reading our history books with the knowledge that its white authors may be telling only one side of the story.

 

The most important point made at the panel last night, and the most relevant for us as college students, is that we make the difference.  If we see discrimination on campus, we can create a movement to oppose it.  The panel did concede that standing up to prejudice is extremely difficult, and often unsuccessful, but it’s our moral duty to fight for racial equality.  Our slogan WE ARE is founded in the idea of racial equality, and it’s up to us to oppose racism and actively fight for a better reality.