Associated Students, Inc. President Joi Sullivan. | Photo courtesy of Joi Sullivan

Dear Fellow Mustangs,

Finals week is upon us and you are busy studying, making plans for winter break and crossing off items on your holiday to-do list. Many of you are celebrating the accomplishment of successfully completing another, or your first, quarter at Cal Poly.

Meanwhile, others are dreading your final exams as you teeter on the edge of passing your classes. Further still, you or someone around you may be finding it difficult to be joyful during this holiday season because it is the first Christmas you will spend without a loved one who was lost during the past year. While the end of the quarter and anticipation of the holidays can bring about great happiness for many students, they can also bring about great stress, sadness and depression for you or your peers.

I, too, am subject to these struggles. I, like many of you, struggle at times with depression. I know I am not alone, and neither are you. A recent study found that 44 percent of American college students report having suffered from the symptoms of depression, meaning that approximately 8,500 students on this campus suffer from it in some form.

I first came face-to-face with my depression during Spring Quarter of my second year here at Cal Poly. It was during this time I finally admitted to myself that, contrary to what I told those around me, I was not fine and the truth was, I was not OK. Life seemed to be too much to handle. I could not see a way to confront the seemingly insurmountable hurdles that I faced and, like many of you, I felt very alone. I continued to battle my depression throughout the rest of the year and into the summer. During that summer I worked at a children’s camp, a place characterized by 10 weeks filled with the chaos of trying to herd around small children during their sugar-filled week away from home.

Within this hectic environment, I found something that offered to help mend the struggle I faced.

Something that I had experienced glimpses of in the past but could not truly diagnose. During that summer, I found a community unlike any I had ever encountered; one that could only be formed through a common challenge, like the exhaustion from chasing around wild children. The community I found uplifted me by providing encouragement and support in the midst of hardship, and although my struggle with depression is not over, the community that I found taught me that I am stronger than my depression.

You, the students, faculty and staff of Cal Poly, have a community that is here to uplift, encourage and support you.

You have the Mustang Community. We all share a common challenge; therefore, we must share in each other’s successes and struggles. As we move forward through the end of the quarter and into the holiday season, look to those around you for support and offer support to those around you who need it. Do not be afraid to be vulnerable with your fellow students and professors about the struggles you face, and do not ignore those around you who are facing difficult times.

If you find yourself struggling during this time of finals and holidays, do not be ashamed of your hardship. You are, and always will be, more than a grade, more than your GPA. You are a unique, cherished and truly loved part of the Mustang community. Please know that you are valued and seek help from one of the many campus resources such as PULSE, Health and Counseling Services, the Cross Cultural Center or one of the many students around you.

For those of you going through a difficult time, you are not alone in your struggle. My door is always open to anyone and everyone. To the Mustang Community as a whole, let us remember to support, care for and encourage everyone within our community. We have the ability to make impacts that may be much larger than any of us will ever know.

Good luck on finals, enjoy your break and Merry Christmas!

Joi Sullivan

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