Tag Archives: mental health

STEM Majors be like I’m taking a break from mental health for school.

Text: STEM Majors be like I’m taking a break from mental health for school.


Context of performance: Discord call between myself, informant, and a mutual friend. Mutual friend and I are both STEM majors, and were complaining about how stressed we are. Informant is an art major and cracked the joke during the call.

Informant: It’s like…it’s like a play on, the mental health campaigns right now, y’know? Like people taking a break from like, school and work and stuff for mental health? Like I’m always reading that, that like, people are um taking gap years from school, for like mental health. Y’know that like catchphrase to take a break from school for mental health?

Informant: and just like, none of y’all [our mutual friends who are also all STEM majors] are, like, popping off mentally [translation: doing well mentally].

Personal Thoughts:

This joke was particularly funny in this circumstance for a variety of reasons. First, the person telling the joke was an “outsider looking in” – the informant is an art major mocking the suffering of STEM majors. Second, all three of us in this conversation have the background context to make this joke funny (we are all part of a folk group). This context includes a deep understanding of the rigorous course-load of a STEM major, in addition to knowledge about “our generation” pushing to prioritize mental health over academics.

What makes this joke funny, then, is the irony that STEM students instead prioritize their academic education over their mental health. I would bet that other members of this particular group – STEM students – would also find this joke funny (if not also a bit painful).

Simp: A Teen Colloquial Term

Context: The following interview was conducted online between the informant (CG) and I(Me). The informant is a freshman at CSUN. He encountered the term on social media and in-person with his peers and classmates.

CG: Most people think a simp is a kind gentleman who would do anything for women. Just kidding a simp is a boy who obsesses over women and does extreme things to get their attention. It’s like saying you’re a slave to women.

Me: Where did you first hear of the term simp?

CG: I  always described some guys to be like this but never knew about this term until I saw this on Twitter or Instagram. I see it a lot when guys would share their dm’s(direct messages) on their feed and sometimes others would call them a simp.

Me: Does a simp always have to be a guy?

CG: Not necessarily, I see it being used as a term for being sad over someone in general but because guys have more sexual tendencies and want women more, I see it more in men.

Me: Is a simp a bad thing?

CG: I think it is being overused and oversaturated. Generally, it is looked down upon now since it is used too much, but before it used to be something somewhat serious since it meant that someone was really hurting but now it’s more of a meme.

Thoughts: The creation of the word in itself shows the emphasis on mental health that a majority of young adults value. It is interesting how the word has changed to a meme. Its change in meaning shows how we are slowly being desensitized to many modern problems.

Fort Ord Suicide Ghost Story

Main Piece:

Here is a transcription of my (CB) interview with my informant (HH).

CB: “Can you tell me about Fort Ord?”

HH: “Okay so i heard this story about the old Fort Ord barracks and how they got abandoned because there was this soldier who… um… was apparently was like ignored and really unhappy for a long time and he would like talk about seeing ghosts and a couple people thought that he was like maybe schizophrenic. But he…uh… he ended up hanging himself in the barracks in front of a bunch of his fellow soldiers. And then, after he died, a bunch of people would say that they could like still hear his warnings and like his stories of seeing things. And hear his footsteps. Its really simple and kinda stupid, but that’s what I heard about the old Fort Ord barraks. And thats why they had to shut everything down because it was like affecting their life and the government was getting backlash for it”

CB: “So, where did you hear this story?”

HH: “Um, it was from someone I knew in high school.”

CB: “What do you think is the meaning behind the story?”

HH: “Um, I think it was that um… the government doesn’t really care about our soldiers and their mental health”

CB: “Why do you think people tell the story”

HH: “I think that it’s still very much a problem. Like for soldiers who come back from active duty and they suffer from PTSD, they just don’t really have a lot of resources or outreach. Like they do now a little more that mental health is on the front line of peoples worries, but even now i still think soldiers are kinda shamed for having it.”


My informat grew up in Salinas, California, which is just minutes from Fort Ord. The fort was abandoned in the 90’s, and there have been all sorts of mysterious stories about the abandonment. The community had a very close relationship with the The old barracks of the fort are a known hangout spot for teens, and with that comes all sorts of ghost stories.


I had actually called my informant’s mother to interview her about folklore, but my informant overheard the conversation and told me this story. My informant and her mom were in the car, and they told me this story while driving around Salinas. The conversation was fun and casual.


I think that ghost stories naturally present themselves whenever there is an abandoned structure. I think that ghost stories are particularly common when dealing with american teen culture.  However, I think that it’s really interesting what the stories reveal about what that culture values at that time. Most of the ghost stories that I’ve heard place little emphasis on who the ghost used to be, just on the death and the haunting. But this story explains a history of untreated mental illness as the reason for the death, and possibly even the haunting. It places a clear blame on the US government for neglecting their soldiers. A lot of the more recent movements for mental health awareness and help have been led by young people, and so it makes sense that the folklore that young people tell would begin to incorporate their values.

Loony Bin

Main piece: In mental hospitals or treatment centers, patients will sometimes refer to their hospital or program as the “Loony Bin.”

Context: The informant (S) is originally from Marietta, Georgia, and their lineage traces back to Germany on both sides of their family. They are a high school student about to graduate and head out-of-state to college. They were raised Christian and consider themselves spiritual, but they do not align themselves with any organized religion. Our conversation took place over FaceTime while S cleaned their room and played Tame Impala in the background. The informant remembers this slang specifically because when they first walked into their room at the hospital, their new roommate exclaimed, “Welcome to the Loony Bin!” Funnily enough, S and their new friends ended up naming their group chat “The Loony Bin” after discharging from the hospital. While S sees the humor in the phrase, they’re wary of it, because “it reinforces this idea that mentally ill people are crazy – or ‘loony’ – when in fact we’re just normal people trying to get our brains to work correctly.”

Personal thoughts: The informant’s point about the phrase “Loony Bin” brings up complex questions of whether a harmful word or phrase can ever truly be “reclaimed.” If someone who has never experienced mental health difficulties referred to a mental hospital as a “Loony Bin,” many patients of mental hospitals might feel ridiculed or offended. However, when a patient themself uses the term (like with S’s example), the connotation is different – that person is most likely saying “Loony Bin” in a fond or humorous or exasperated way, as the phrase itself sounds silly. It brings lightness and childishness to a dark, serious situation, which can often be a relief for many patients. Additionally, the casual, humorous phrasing of “Loony Bin” somewhat de-stigmatizes mental health treatment, as “mental hospital” sounds taboo to many. Even if S is right about the phrase reinforcing that patients are “crazy,” there can be strength in normalizing looniness. What is so bad about it? Wouldn’t a “loony” person feel life more intensely and freely despite the circumstances they’re in? These are all important things to consider when asking whether the reclaiming of a phrase would be more beneficial than harmful.

“One day at a time”

Main piece: “One day at a time”

Context: The informant (WB) is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, but moved to Orem, Utah when he was 17 four years ago to receive addiction and mental health treatment. He ended up falling in love with the state and staying. WB’s father had Irish lineage and his mother was a first generation immigrant from Germany. Although he was raised Christian, he does not consider himself religious. Our conversation took place in our shared hotel room while smoking together on a family ski trip in Utah. The “one day at a time” saying is often used in addiction treatment, especially Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to deal with the concept of sobriety. Many addicts don’t want to think about staying sober for the rest of their lives, as that prospect seems dull and overwhelming, especially in early sobriety. However, if you want to use but tell yourself to just stay sober only for the next 24 hours, there’s a possibility you’ll get to use again afterwards. By the time 24 hours rolls around, it’s much easier to resist the temptation to use, either because you’re distracted from why you wanted to in the first place or you just decide it’s not worth it. “Eventually, you’ll look down and realize you have a couple of weeks, a couple of months, or a couple of years clean.” WB has always remembered this saying because it truly works, and it has been what’s kept him sober for the past 6 months.

Personal thoughts: The practice of mindfulness is a big part of mental health and addiction treatment. Often in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), patients are given many different grounding techniques to help stay present in the current moment or day and not catastrophize the future, exemplified by the above saying. Personally, I first learned about the power of mindfulness in group therapy, but that in of itself is troubling. Mindfulness skills should be promoted and taught to everyone, not just those seeking mental health treatment. Sure, “one day at a time” as a proverb exists beyond therapeutic applications and is thrown around occasionally, but how often does the average working American actually buy into that idea? Many of us are hyper-focused on planning our next move in life, whether that be college applications, career developments or potential new relationships, and that is partially because our society’s definition of “success” requires such forward thinking. However, unless we break free of this mindset, we will never truly be satisfied, as we will always just crave the next big thing. What will it take to break people out of this cycle? Will everyone need to live in the wilderness for months on end against their will to finally internalize “one day at a time”?