The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

    FCC Offers Options for Coping with Mental Illness

    Fresno City College student Virginia Maciel sits in a booth at Denny’s over a plate of blueberry pancakes, fiddling away with her cell phone – typical college activity at its finest.

    After her pre-class meal, the 28 year old photography major packs up her belongings, hops into her navy blue Dodge Dakota and heads to class. There she will find her note-taker, assigned by FCC’s Disabled Students Programs & Services (DSP&S).

    Although Maciel shows no outward signs of a disability, she is disabled. In 2003, the state of California classified her as disabled after she was diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder – a condition marked by dramatic and sudden shifts in mood.

    Maciel is not alone.

    She is one of 327 students at FCC who receive aid for psychological disabilities. She, like hundreds of other students, utilizes FCC’s on-campus Psychological Services office.

    Cases similar to Maciel’s are not rare. Nationwide, one in seven college students report engaging in reckless behavior while one in four report the presence of suicidal thoughts and/or feelings according to a study by the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH).

    The incident involving Jared Loughner in Tucson Arizona raises concerns about mental health issues on college campuses and whether colleges have the resources to identify, diagnose and assist students who might need help.

    The majority of mental illnesses, according to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), begin to reveal themselves in the initial years of adulthood. Signs of schizophrenia, for example, become notable before the age of 20 in both men and women. The onset of bipolar disorder comes just as early, usually before the age of 25.

    As students reach the age of onset for most disorders, availability of resources and education on these subjects are lacking at best, and underutilized at worst.

    These factors raise pertinent questions: are there tell-tale signs that a mental health disorder is manifesting itself? What resources are readily available to students and the community? And finally – is it at all possible to prevent incidents of violence that stem from the effects of these disorders?

    FCC students are more fortunate than most.

    On-site psych services at FCC are built to provide short-term therapy and resources to students. Their services range from crisis intervention to couples therapy, are provided free of charge, and, above all, private resources.

    MP3s and online mental health magazines are available in their section of the FCC website.

    These are not readily available in community colleges across the nation.

    Such was Jared Loughner’s case at Pima Community College. Despite multiple altercations with campus police he was never referred or treated. Instead, he was expelled. As multiple reports indicate, PCC had no psychological services available to students at the time.

    This is cause for significant concern. According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), roughly one in four adults suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder. Moreover, a study conducted by the National Association for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) determined that mental health disorders are becoming more prevalent among the student population.

    Collegiate life is not the only stressor students must bear the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), “economic turmoil can result in a whole host of negative health effects.”

    SAMSHA said, “Although each of us is affected differently by economic troubles, these problems can add tremendous stress” substantially increasing the risk of developing depression, anxiety, substance abuse and compulsive behaviors.

    Warning signs, according to SAMSHA, include the following: increased drinking, persistent sadness, anxiety, loss of sleep, apathy and loss of function at work, school or home.

    Coupled with the often stressful lives that students lead, we see a group of potential catalysts to the onset of a variety of disorders.

    Episodes stemming from bipolar disorder, however, do not have a single specific cause, according to

    Severe changes in mood can be caused by a variety of catalysts, some as elementary as stress or sleep deprivation, and others as intrusive as substance abuse.

    Outward signs of mania, according to Helpguide, consist of the following: racing thoughts, sexual promiscuity, irresponsible/reckless behavior, unrealistic or otherwise grandiose behavior and jumbled speech.

    These are all too familiar to Maciel. In one specific incidence, she accrued over $8,000 in debt while in the grips of a manic episode.

    “After I wrote all those bad checks,” said Maciel, “I thought ‘Oh my God, I’m on crack.’ I went to places in Hanford, and wrote $1,000 checks. I mean, what was I thinking? People could have seen me – which they did – and I got into trouble for it.”

    In Loughner’s case, the signs of a perturbed young man surfaced during his high school years. An article by Jack Gillum in USA Today reported that, according to police records, “Jared Loughner had troubles with alcohol, marijuana and bullying during high school.”

    Reports compiled by the Pima County Sheriff’s Office note a specific incident where “Loughner was taken to the hospital after he appeared intoxicated at Mountain View High School.”

    “He told authorities he had consumed nearly half a bottle of vodka that morning because he ‘was very upset as his father yelled at him.'”

    Noticeable changes in behavior did not stop there.

    According to information accounted in an interview conducted by Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now’s The War and Peace Report, Loughner “was behaving in an increasingly erratic manner,” and “had distanced himself from friends and family members in recent years.”

    These are outward examples of a variety of mood and personality disorders, specifically Borderline Personality Disorder which, according to the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), is defined as “a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image and affects, as well as marked impulsivity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts.”

    It is unknown whether Loughner had a diagnosable psychological disorder. Regardless, the marked difference between Maciel and Loughner lie in the level of treatment they received after the manifestation of explicit warning signs.

    In the wake of Maciel’s mania, she sought treatment to curb her affliction.

    As for Loughner, Goodman reports that there is no record of him receiving mental health services from any public system within the Arizona State Department of Health Services.

    The National Alliance on Mental Illness conducted a study in 2009. The study, titled Grading the States, said that “mental healthcare in America is in crisis.”

    Grading the States provided both a comprehensive analysis of the United States as a whole, and appropriated figures for each individual state as well. The US received a D, while California and Arizona received Cs, respectively.

    The survey said that “state budget cuts are creating a vicious cycle that is leaving some of our most vulnerable citizens behind,” an altogether pervasive theme.

    Both California and Arizona recently slashed mental health services.

    In an effort to save $5.9 million a year, Fresno County closed the doors of its psychiatric crisis center in July 2009, as reported by the Fresno Bee.

    In effect, the amount of psychiatric patients in the emergency room at Community Regional Medical Center increased over 250 percent – from 195 in September 2008, to over 500 in 2010.

    As for Arizona – cuts to behavioral services in 2010, according to Goodman’s interview, affected over 28,000 state residents in a variety of fashions. Patients saw slashes across the board – from access to case management and support groups, to housing subsidies.

    H. Clarke Romans, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Southern Arizona responded to these cuts with the following:

    “Our response so far has just been to point out that the availability of services has diminished due to these budget cuts, although there is no direct link [to the shooting in Tucson], it just makes it less likely that people would be able to get services, even if they overcome the stigma of admitting or acknowledging that they have these illnesses.”

    Simply said, there is no cure for mental health illnesses. This does not, however, exclude patients from leading healthy functional lives.

    “In all honesty, pretty much all mental health issues are manageable,” said Dr Dianne Ey, Post Doctoral psychologist, and one of the seven therapists available at FCC’s Psych Services office.

    “Of course, there are other factors. It’s just to what degree the individual is willing to get into treatment.”

    All the same, regardless of what the availability of resources might be – from sparse to abundant – Dr Ey stresses the importance of personal dedication.

    “It resides with the person to take that action,” she said.

    This is not to say that, however, that therapy would have prevented the deadly incident in Tucson. Seung-Hui Cho, for example, was reviewed years before he killed 32 in the Virginia Tech massacre.

    And though both Cho and Loughner were allowed to purchase firearms because they were never involuntarily committed, refurbishing gun laws does not resolve the crux of these issues.

    Story continues below advertisement

    The only sound alternative with the potential for measurable effects is to seal the cracks.

    Virginia Maciel did not fall through the cracks – Jared Loughner did.

    It is an inarguable truism evoked by those with mental health disorders: at times, the stigma seems worse than the disease itself. It is not a crime to be mentally ill. Thus, it is socially irresponsible to leave the apparently ill to their devices.

    And while it ultimately falls upon the individual to seek appropriate services, there is, at least, the reassuring fact that help is not so far away.

    “Come to us,” said Dr Ey. “We know that these are extremely personal issues, but if we can help you, by all means come and get your help.”

    Suicide & Crisis Hotline

    (available 24 hrs) 1-800-784-2433


    GLBT Nation Youth TALKLINE


    FCC Psych Services Main Website:

    E-magazine provided by FCC Psych Services:

    Fresno City College Relaxation and Wellness Center:

    National Alliance on Mentally Health main website:

    W. Gary Cannon Psychological Services Center

    Alliant Int’l Univ., 5130 E. Clinton Way, Fresno

    Outpatient Psychotherapy. Sliding Scale. 559-253-2277

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