Dear Governor Brown: AB 2017

ab2017

Dear Governor Brown,

Earlier today, you vetoed AB 2017, a bill focused on increasing funding for college mental health services. The bill received bipartisan support from both the Assembly and Senate, along with backing from mental health advocates.

Your reasoning behind this decision was based on the numbers. I know of your recent decisions for striking down bills, most of which under the assumption that we can’t spare the money for it. I am not going to argue with this because I lack both insight on the state budget and the skills to draw such a conclusion.

However, this seems to be a recurring theme. Politicians talk, make speeches, shed tears, but when it comes to actual action, we see nothing from our legislators. Consider this twenty-four page document, which I will gladly summarize for you:

  • One in four students have a diagnosable illness
  • 40% do not seek help
  • 80% feel overwhelmed by their responsibilities
  • 50% have been so anxious, they struggled in school
  • Many students have cited stigma and lack of resources for not seeking help.
  • Half of all college students cited their campus as not being supportive with regards to mental health.

 

Mental health is not a bad day once in awhile or the moment when we need to clutch a stress ball. Mental health is an umbrella term; it is intertwined with and as important as physical health. The spectrum is endless and only a portion of it was represented in my project for college students & mental health. In California, we are seeing suicides as early as in high school. We witness issues such as substance abuse, eating disorders, yet we continue to shrug.

It is unacceptable that most children with mental illnesses remain untreated. It is ridiculous that the wait times for a counseling appointment in the UC system can last for three months.  Governor Brown, California’s economy might be globally ranked, but suicides are on the rise. This issue needs to be addressed on a fiscal level. We need both prevention and clinical interventions, but money does not grow in trees. Perhaps it’s time the state walks the walk and considers long-term investment in college mental health.

 

Thoughts on the UCLA Shooting

To the professors at UCLA,

I say this with mixed feelings: today some of you have proven yourself to be exemplary educators. Despite issues with space reservations and timing, you chose to cancel midterms and finals and have students stay safe.

But many of you did not.

You told your students to get on a computer and complete their assignments. You told them that yes there was a shooter on campus but they needed to take their midterm first. You told them that class would resume as usual; the shooting was merely a disturbance, they would be able to resume classes without a problem.

Today I was reminded of an event that occurred on September 30, 2013. No, this was not the Isla Vista shooting. Gun control should be a part of this conversation, but this was not what came to mind. On that day, an explosion occurred on campus, setting the power out on campus. A few students were caught in the crossfire and received minor burns. Some students were stuck in elevators. Many continued on with midterms by using other light sources, even those on their cellphones.

But it didn’t stop there. The dorms were not serving food. They had no electricity or Internet, and all the academic portal websites were down. Yet professors were emailing their students saying that despite the power outage, midterms and papers would continue as normal. We were not told if we could return to campus until 5 AM the next day.

That night several of my friends were at my house. I was serving one dinner while others were frantically trying to get their assignments done so they could leave. That night I was unable to do work, trying to check if everyone was all right and trying to accommodate friends who hadn’t been given a grace period.

This isn’t a once-in-a-while shooting or explosion. This isn’t a new phenomenon, it exists, it is rooted and our culture and we have accepted it as the status quo: when a crisis happens, our mental health is disregarded as we’re told that our work outweighs our health and safety. I’ve seen students sending medical bills to professors, only to have their excusable absence rejected for a zero on the midterm. I’ve seen the influx of students at Tang during finals week for physical and mental conditions alike due to everyone abandoning their health for academics. I’ve seen students who’ve been sick for weeks but can only worry about their upcoming midterm instead of their health.

There’s something wrong with this picture. So to the University of California, I say enough is enough. Implement emergency protocols and ensure that faculty can put aside academics for safety. To student advocacy groups, please keep fighting for mental health; today was proof that we’re not close to where we need to be.