• Resilience Through Compassion

    How MHCC Mental Health Grads Support Students, Communities During the Pandemic

    Isolation. Face coverings. Working from home. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in measures that are effective at slowing the spread of infection, but can be hard on our mental health.

    This “new reality” can make it difficult to think about the future, set goals or fathom taking classes online. A 2020 study found that between March and May over 60% of students surveyed nationwide reported that their mental health negatively impacted their academic performance. At Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC), 47% of students surveyed at that time said they could no longer concentrate on their education due to the pandemic.

    MHCC’s Mental Health, Social Services and Addiction Counseling program produces graduates who are helping students and our communities alike navigate the emotional toll that comes with living through traumatic times.

    “Many people feel alone, vulnerable mentally and emotionally. Stress levels are higher, especially with all of the divisiveness in our country, which just adds to the burden of feeling overwhelmed, so taking care of our mental health is so important right now,” said Chanel Tran, a graduate of MHCC’s mental health program.

    Chanel graduated from the program last spring and now works for MHCC’s Student Success Program while pursuing her bachelor’s degree in social work at Portland State University.

    The Student Success Program at MHCC supports those who might need a little extra help persisting in college. This might be in the form of extra tutoring, help paying tuition or utility bills, accessing food or housing resources and much more.

    Chanel says the program’s cohort model made learning concepts like trauma-informed care, case management and active listening more approachable. These are skills that are now vital to her role as she supports students every day.

    “Right now, it is so difficult to stay in school, work, deal with the pandemic, so seeing students be so resilient and register for that next term makes me really happy,” Chanel said. “A lot of students are dealing with so much and we want to help them find it within themselves to keep going.”

    Valerie Howard is currently studying in the Mental Health program while interning with MHCC Student Success until she graduates this spring. Like Chanel, she says that the active listening skills she’s picked up through the Mental Health program help her lift students up through compassion and empathy.

    “When you can meet a need, it’s like you’ve lightened a person’s load, like they can breathe a little and go just a little bit further,” Valerie said. “Some students are carrying full course loads and working full- or part-time jobs, some are parents, so it’s just meeting the needs of those students and making them a priority so they can remain at Mt. Hood.”

    Chanel and Valerie are alike in that they are currently assisting students through Mt. Hood’s Success Program and both aim to earn their bachelor’s degrees and potentially master’s degrees in social services.

    Mental health issues, addiction, domestic violence and suicide were already at an all-time high even before the pandemic, according to Karen Green, director of MHCC’s Mental Health, Social Services and Addiction Counseling program. Given that the need for compassionate care is higher than ever, students in the program tend to land jobs almost immediately or even before they graduate.

    “Our community needs our students’ expertise like never before,” Green said.