Name: Hannah Farrell
School: University of California, Berkeley
Year: Sophomore (Second Year)
Major: Anthropology and Integrative Biology
Favorite thing about your campus: We have a tower on campus called the Campanile and students can go up to the top for free! You can see the entire campus and part of the surrounding areas from the ocean to the hills. It’s a great place where I love to go and remind myself how lucky I am to be where I stand today.
Dream job: If anyone has even seen the T.V. show Bones or read the books by Kathy Reich, I really want to be a forensic anthropologist specializing in the identification of bones. It’s a bit morbid, but to me there would be nothing more satisfying than providing a family with closure after someone has been missing for years.
What is your connection to mental illness?
My connection to mental illness is kind of a complicated one that hits me from all sides. I struggle with depression and anxiety which is quite an interesting combination when you go to the top public university in the US. I have been struggling with these since high school but they have gotten progressively worse as I’ve gotten older and the stresses of my life have gotten more important. I have also been surrounded by addicts my whole life, and I do not mean that in a negative way, I have grown up in a home of recovering drug and narcotic addicts. I grew up going to A.A. meetings and celebrating two birthdays for the majority of my family members. Currently, I am just addicted to fresh bread but I am always aware that the addict gene is a part of me.
How do you deal with stress from school?
I have two favorite methods for dealing with stress from school. The first being that I love to sing it off. Taylor Swift shakes it off and I sing it. I go down into the basement of our music department which holds many practice rooms and I sing and play the piano. I sing country, pop, show-tunes, whatever I feel will help me best to move on from whatever had been bothering me that day/week. My second method has to do with another one of my hobbies on campus. I am a part of a non-profit that braids, bakes, and sells fresh challah bread every week to help end food insecurity on college campuses. I don’t know what it is about braiding bread and making dough, but it is very therapeutic to me to just be able to take an hour out of my day to volunteer and focus on someone else’s needs rather than my own. When I walk out, I feel refreshed and ready to readdress whatever had been stressing me out (and I usually walk out with hot fresh bread in hand so it’s a win-win).
What does your campus do to help students’ mental health?
My campus has a week before finals that we call ‘dead week’ and it’s a week in which there are no classes and you take the time to study and prep for finals. The Associated Students of University of California (ASUC – our student government) put on a week called Bear-able Finals Week (because we’re the bears) and they offer help to students and they have uplifting events across campus like one day they’ll bring in llamas!! Also through the ASUC, there is a mental health carnival put on every semester in order to raise awareness both for the student body and for the services the school offers. One great service that the ASUC is hoping to expand is that every student gets 5 free counseling sessions with our student health center, they are working to raise that number past 5 (even though 5 is a pretty impressive number for a campus with over 30,000 students). I always feel supported here at Cal by their medical team because they are trained in exactly how to address issues of mental health within all communities.
Do you have any school year self-care tips to share with other students?
I’m just gonna throw some out here that I’ve been thinking about recently rapid fire:
- One midterm score does not reflect you, no matter how you do, you are not dumb. You cannot let one score, two scores, any scores determine your self-worth and how you wake up feeling every day. Nothing should have that much control over you.
- Please share how you’re feeling with your friends. Even if you don’t like to talk about it, please do. I cannot say how big of a difference it makes to be able to share personal things with your closest friends, and like my mom used to say “the more you talk about something, the less power it holds over you”. It’s very important, especially as a new incoming student, to find your support group.
- Take time for you. If you’re stressed out and feel like you could break down in tears at any point (like I felt just a couple weeks ago when preparing for 4 midterms), take an hour or two for you. Find a quiet space a read a little bit of your favorite book, watch an episode of your favorite show, find a grassy spot and meditate for a little while. Take the time for yourself because once you get up from that one to two hours you set aside for yourself, you will be so much more productive and level-headed when preparing for whatever mountain stands in your way this time.