The Block Plan at Colorado College has a tradition of innovation and flexibility. Please design your own three-and-a-half week course and describe what you would do.
In our society, there is a divide between physical health and mental health. When we are young, we are taught to eat fruit and vegetables, exercise 60 minutes per day, and wash our hands before eating. Starting in Kindergarten, physical education (PE) is required to combat obesity and encourage proper physical development. Also in Kindergarten, we are taught basic emotions. I distinctly remember a chart in my classroom that had three faces: a yellow face smiling, a red face frowning, and a blue face crying. In later years, I learned that there were other emotions such as scared, confused, bored, and surprised. However, after about third grade, the conversation about feelings and emotions stops. PE continues throughout high school to improve our physical health, but mental education ends just about the time that kids begin to need it the most. Looking at the increasing rate of mental health issues and substance abuse in American teenagers, there’s clearly a problem that needs to be addressed.
If I were to teach a class at Colorado College, I would teach “Mental Education”. In this course, students will learn about the complexities surrounding mental health, including brain chemistry, stress, psychiatric disorders, and how society deals with mental health challenges. Students will complete a thorough examination of the history of psychological and psychiatric theory, from Hippocrates in Ancient Greece to Freud, Jung and beyond. The class will address why mental health is stigmatized in our society and how other cultures treat and manage mental illness. We will have an in-depth discussion comparing how Western society tends to rely on therapeutic and medicinal intervention to treat mental illness but other cultures, especially those in Asia and India, utilize other methods, such as acupuncture, meditation, and yoga to relieve suffering. We will also examine the relationship between mental health and substance abuse. The class will end with a detailed study of the mental health crisis facing teenagers in the United States, especially how academic, personal, and economic challenges adversely affect them.
In addition to lectures and reading, class participants will visit organizations and facilities in the Colorado Springs area to see first-hand how mental health issues are addressed locally. The class will start by visiting CC’s Counseling Center to get a thorough understanding of the services provided at CC. We will visit local hospitals that provide in-patient psychiatric care, a local community health center that provides out-patient care, and meet with local mental health professionals. We will also meet with local community service organizations that work with the homeless and indigent population and learn how mental illness and substance abuse contribute to homelessness and un/underemployment. Class participants will also meet with local school districts to learn how they address mental health education. Students will also be encouraged to take a yoga and meditation class during the block.