The Student Newspaper of Highline College

Joshua Magallanes

Remember to stay mentally healthy during pandemic restrictions

Elba Quijano Staff Reporter Dec 03, 2020

Students can take positive steps to keep themselves mentally healthy amid the isolation of the pandemic, a panel said in a Zoom conference last week.

Highline’s Active Minds club and the Inter-Cultural Center joined last Wednesday to present session on prioritizing your mental health during COVID-19.

Active Minds is a club that encourage students to bring awareness about mental health issues and to support them by teaching them how to solve mental health challenges.

There are different ways to look out for your mental health during COVID-19, panelists said.

Some examples of effective self-care include sleeping, going on walks, cultivating relationships, or taking a mini road trip, said Samantha Atienza, cultural center peer facilitator.

Mental health is important, said Alona Ishechenko, also a cultural center peer facilitator,

 If you don’t take care of your mental health, the outcome might be experiencing mental illness.

Many things can dictate whether you have good mental health, some that can be controlled and other things that cannot, one panelist said.

“Trauma can be deeply distressing and disturbing experience, especially in early life when we are learning what the world is like or when something unexpected occurs,” said Lelania Rodda, president of the Active Minds club.

People can experience different types of trauma, Rodda said. It can be individualistic or in a group.

“There is acute trauma, bi-curious trauma, chronic trauma, complex and what we are all experiencing currently, mass trauma,” Rodda said.

Trauma has no age limit, said Rodda; it can range from children to adults. Trauma can affect anybody, at any time.

“Children who are witnessing their parent going through life threating or dangerous experiences day-to-day will often perceive those experiences as they were directly occurring to them,” Rodda said. “It’s important to check in with your friends, family and even children. The loss of routine with family and school gatherings and visiting friends, for all of us can be disorienting.”

There are many ways to cope with mental illness, especially during COVID-19, panelists said.

“We can use resilience to recover quickly from difficult circumstances such as trauma or COVID-19,” Rodda said. “Resilience is something we can be taught but it must be practiced. This isn’t something you can be taught overnight.”

Connection with others can help lower anxiety and regulate emotions, said Rodda. People need purpose in life, and it can be seen as what helps us get up in the morning. Adaptability can also help. It can help overcome challenges and even current times we are living.

“We must take care of ourselves before we can assist another,” Rodda said.

Mental illnesses can come with a few common warning signs to watch out for.

“Some warning signs can be feeling sad or withdrawn; seeing, hearing or believing things are real; trying to harm or end your life; severe out-of-control risk-taking behavior that causes harm to yourself or others,” said Rodda. “These are a few ways that we can tell there are warning signs withing mental illness.”

If you are experiencing warning signs, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Suicide is never the answer, said Rodda. It may seem like it is but it’s OK to not be OK. There are people willing to help you out. You are not alone.

Mental health can have a huge impact in your daily life. It can affect you in many ways that you might not realize, panelists said.

“Mental health affects how we act, think, feel and also how we communicate with other people and how we handle upcoming stress and how we make choices,” said Ishchenko.

Practicing a different type of mindset can help people succeed and change perspectives.

Having a growth mindset is different from a set mindset. A growth mindset isn’t something you are born with, said Ishchenko. It’s programming your mind to become the best version of yourself.  With hard work and a good attitude, you can accomplish everything you want.

 “It’s scientifically proven, writing in a journal with gratitude is very important to change our mindset and be happy in general,” Ishchenko said. “Writing three to five positive memories from the day and if you do that constantly, you create the habit and it automatically makes you happier.”

Making and achieving small goals and generosity can also produce good hormones that boost your happiness, Ishchenko said. This will help other people as well as yourself.

“We must take care of ourselves before we can assist another,” Rodda said.

The Counseling Center at Highline is a nearby place where you can reach out for help.

“We are all struggling, navigating through anxiety, depression, stress, whether it is chronic, acute or not,” said Joshua Magallanes, a Highline counselor.

Mental illness is something that can pop up one day and leave the next, Magallanes said, and that’s completely OK.

“Everyone in the counseling center are licensed mental health therapist or psychologist. We are equipped, knowledgeable and culturally responsive as well,” Magallanes said.

The counseling center is free to students. You can make an appointment at