Mental Health Mondays at Clark for all

Popular series provides overviews, information

By Jacques Von Lunen, Columbian staff writer

Published:

 

If you go

What: Mental Health Mondays.

When: Noon to 1 p.m. Mondays starting April 16.

Where: Penguin Union Building, Clark College. The first two sessions are in room 258C, the rest in the student lounge.

Cost: Free.

Information:http://www.clark.edu/student_services/counseling/mhm.php

A popular event series that brings together college students and community members will start its spring run this month.

Mental Health Mondays, a string of weekly one-hour presentations, will be in session starting April 16 with “Mindful Eating.” The event will be the first of seven that stretch into June.

Since 2007 Mental Health Mondays has been a resource for those affected by mental illness -- directly or indirectly. The first-ever session was about the psychological impact of war, said Judy VanPatten, the Clark counselor who started the series.

“We had 200 people in that first session, a lot of them veterans,” VanPatten said. “We expected maybe 50. It was overwhelming.”

Each quarter since then, VanPatten has put on a series of programs on mental health.

She has no trouble finding speakers to volunteer their time. You could say VanPatten is well-connected in the local mental health community. She’s been a counselor at Clark for 39 years.

“I’ve been thrilled by the response from practitioners and from people looking for information,” she said.

The lecture series covers a wide range of topics within mental health. This quarter includes sessions titled “Grief or Depression, Which Is It?” and “Alternatives to Psychiatric Medications.”

Nearly every quarter includes a talk on substance abuse, VanPatten said.

The one-hour events aren’t meant to replace treatment, of course. They offer a glimpse at the resources that are available to people who need help.

VanPatten’s purpose in starting the event series was threefold, she said.

• She wants to offer support and education to people who have a friend or family member suffering from mental illness.

• She wants to offer resources for students to succeed despite the stress of balancing work and study.

• And she wants to take the stigma out of mental health issues. Too many people still hide their mental health problems, VanPatten said.

“But treatment works,” she said. “It’s not a big, scary thing and you don’t have to have a big,

horrible problem (to seek treatment).”

Counseling can be helpful for a lot of people who don’t think of themselves as having a mental health issue, VanPatten said.

“It’s just nice to have someone listen who doesn’t have an opinion on it,” she said.

The bulk of the audience at the events are students, VanPatten said. But many community members who aren’t enrolled at Clark also come.

Many people have told VanPatten that the Monday lunch event made them understand what a relative is going through, for example.

One time, a man came to a lecture on suicide prevention. He said his son was suicidal. After hearing about the resources available, he was able to find the appropriate treatment that helped his son.

The sessions are usually about 40 minutes of lecture followed by 20 minutes for questions. But some are completely interactive, VanPatten said.

The Clark counselor is always open to ideas for future sessions, she said. Send those requests to jvanpatten@clark.edu.

Jacques Von Lunen: 360-735-4515; jacques.vonlunen@columbian.com;http://www.twitter.com/col_schools.