Ease student stress at the now monthly Comfort Tent
October 10, 2019
Students have likely seen white tents emitting soothing music in the Learning Resource Center Quad around midterms and finals. But this semester, and hopefully from here on, Comfort Tents will happen once every month.
Upon entering, visitors are brought through a short hallway of sign-in sheets, flyers for other similar events and mental health-related resources, then welcomed into a low-lit room filled with rugs, tapestries, pillows, and plenty of seating. The tent’s shade alone is a welcome relief from the unrelenting heat that can be felt walking nearly anywhere on campus. Light refreshments are laid on the table for the taking, fresh vegetables and dip, crispy egg rolls, and a choice of cool water or lemonade. Meditation-like music could be heard over the quiet chatter of students taking a break before, after, or in-between classes. In one well-lit corner are tables strewn in coloring sheets and markers. It is stress-free, inviting students to create art only for art’s sake. A few students at a time can be seen hunkering down with a lemonade to start coloring a succulent plant or filigree design.
The environment is so stress-free, finishing a coloring page is not required, some sheets were filled with half-colored animals or cactuses, which other students took up and continued coloring. Student Christopher Starr was seen at the tent coloring a wolf in dark green. “It’s not the benefit of the snacks and water, it’s just having to come to a place where it’s all in one place, and in those 15 minutes before class, I got a test, but now I got to sit down, have some water, feel comfortable, relaxed, and then go and take my test.” he said. “It’s helped me stay calm because I get to make some art without having to be in an art class.” he added.
The Comfort Tent started a few years ago, according to a student worker at San Diego Mesa College’s Student Health Services. “The main reason why we started doing the Comfort Tent here at campus is actually because a student committed suicide here on campus in the library because they were stressed out from finals. Ever since then we try to find what is one way we can reach out to students to let them know there’s a comforting place.” said the student.
Mimi Vu runs the front office at the Student Health Services and helps put together the Comfort Tent and other community health events on campus. She mentioned that this is the first time the department has done Comfort Tents monthly and the number of students counted as attending each one will determine whether or not the Comfort Tents will continue monthly.
One of tent’s most popular visitors is their licensed therapy pony. “You can walk the horse, halt, back-up too,” added Vu, who also mentioned that puppies were available in the past. “That’s one of our therapist’s dog, and she is not available this semester that much but she is more of taking clients in our office.” Vu said. “She’s booked with too many clients this time around. Usually she’s out here today. Hopefully November or December she’ll bring her therapy dog out.” The therapy pony can be seen gracing students with her presence Mondays and Wednesdays, staying for as long as is comfortable for her.
During finals week, expect to see a golf cart version of the tent, “comfort cart”, weaving through campus with snacks, blue books, and Scantrons. “And riding with us is usually a therapist on board, so you get a mobile five-minute deal with a therapist.” Vu added. This semester has seen a rise in students wanting more mental health services, according to Vu.
“Student Health has two things, we have the medical side, so we take care of your physical health, and the mental health side. Comfort Tent is part of that. We have doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses. Because you pay the Student Health Services fee, they can see you for free.” said Vu. “We have nurse practitioner students on board. So we provide the opportunity to them for a learning tool and for students to get a free physical. Because a physical with us costs $35, but with the nurse practitioner student it’s free, with limited spots.” Vu added that students taking any number of units are available for these services.
Mesa students all pay a Student Health Services fee, to which they are entitled certain physical and mental health services, the Comfort Tent being one of them. Nurse practitioners and therapists are available Monday through Friday in the Student Health Services office for free. Keep checking Mesa’s Events Calendar for the Comfort Tent’s schedule, though they mostly set up once a month Monday through Thursday from midmorning to midafternoon. Student Health Services is hoping a high student count will result in more monthly Comfort Tents.