All posts by natashabrennan




Beads of Jade Co.

I have always been a crafty person with a strong love of Disney, especially Mulan, for years. I started mixing the two and creating my own Mickey ears to wear to Disneyland. As an annual passholder, I go to Disneyland a lot and got tired of wearing the same ears every time. All summer I was making ears to sell, and everytime I couldn’t bring myself to sell them. Finally, I mustered up the courage to sell a pair. And after many years of wanting one, I opened my own Etsy store. I haven’t been posting here much because this Etsy store has been my summer project. Please check it out! And follow me on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Say hello to Beads of Jade Co.!

Mental health services on the rise at SGV private universities

At 7:30 a.m. May 1, University of La Verne junior Rachel Drake wakes up, brushes her short blonde hair, puts in her earrings, does her winged eyeliner and takes a pill from the small orange bottle on her dresser. Before she walks out the door, like she does every morning, she must take her prescription — 20 mg of Prozac.

Today she has an extra stop. Before class, she stops by the stone building on the corner of 2nd and E Street, checks in at the front desk, and takes a seat. She waits for her monthly visit with her school-appointed therapist.

“Therapists at school are accessible and free under my student insurance,” Drake said. “I’m lucky that I don’t have to drive back to San Diego once a month and pay $55 to see a therapist who doesn’t know me or is aware of my university and is assigned to me by my insurance.”

At private universities in the San Gabriel Valley, an increasing number of students are taking advantage of their colleges’ mental health facilities. At University of La Verne, Azusa Pacific University and the five Claremont colleges, full-time undergraduate students have access to free mental health services under their school-issued student insurance.

Compared with other private colleges in the area, the University of La Verne’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) has been busier than its counterparts. Eleven percent of ULV’s undergraduates use psychological services compared to 8 percent at APU and 5 percent at the Claremont colleges.

“We understand students on campus become stressed or anxious with college life, so it’s important they are accommodated with an on-campus mental health service,”CAPS Director Elleni Kuolos said.

University of La Verne students who use CAPS’ services attend appointments three times more than students at APU and the five Claremont colleges. However, ULV has the least students and mental health programs to offer compared to the other universities.

“We find that nothing beats face-to-face interaction,” CAPS director Elleni Kuolos said.

Therapists at the five Claremont colleges’ combined mental health program, known as Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services (MCAPS), can interact with students in ways not available at ULV.

“We have an emergency therapist who is available after business hours who can provide counseling over the phone and via Skype,” MCAPS director Gary DeGroot said.

Like MCAPS, APU’s mental health program, the University Counseling Center (UCC), also has 24-hour and emergency services.

Out of the three programs, CAPS is the only one that does not provide 24-hour mental health care through the school.

“If I could change one thing about CAPS is that I don’t have access to a therapist at night,” Drake said. “The night is when I’m alone with my thoughts. That’s when I might need them the most.”

If CAPS students have an after-hours emergency, they must contact local mental health hospitals provided to them through an introductory pamphlet.

“It’s impersonal,” Drake said. “If I have a psychiatric emergency I have to rely on people who don’t know me and don’t know my situation, triggers or issues.”

On May 15, CAPS formally requested funding for a 24-hour therapist to begin next school year, Kuolos said.

Antidepressants, anti-anxiety medication and anti-psychotics are prescribed by psychiatrists at all three of the programs, however more UCC students are prescribed medication than by any other service. Eighty-six percent of UCC students are prescribed antidepressants compared to 72 percent at MCAPS and 79 percent at CAPS.

“It’s not our intention to prescribe medication to everyone. There are a lot of factors that go into deciding if antidepressants are the right choice for each student,” UCC Director Bill Fiala said.

Child and adolescent psychologist Joanne Als said she believes college campuses prescribe medication to distance themselves from potential lawsuits.

“Many college mental health programs are quick to prescribe medication because it’s immediate proof that the University is meeting the needs of students,” Als said. “It removes liability if the student were ever to have a psychological break or complete suicide. The University could say in a lawsuit ‘We did everything we could, we even medicated them.’”

Overall, CAPS provides service to more of its student population and a longer-continuing treatment. CAPS students visit approximately 10 times a school year compared to one to two times a school year at MCAPS and UCC.

Kuolos credits this with the University’s therapeutic practices and involvement with multiple clubs on campus that advocate for mental health and sexual assault awareness.

“Depression isn’t just you take a pill or go to therapy once and you’re okay, it’s a process,” Kuolos said. “We try to make students understand this by being active on campus.”

Drake has adopted this motto from CAPS.

“I know that alleviating my symptoms of depression is a process,” Drake said. “I visit CAPS at least once a month, go to group and individual therapy, take my medication and use the coping techniques I’ve learned.”

CAPS, unlike UCC and MCAPS, contacts students throughout the school year and between appointments.

“We encourage our students to come back and send them texts and email reminders so that they know we care, we’re here and we’re ready for them,” Kuolos said.

Convincing students to continue their therapy is a challenge at UCC and MCAPS.

“Our biggest problem is getting students to come back,” DeGroot said. “As of now, they come about once a semester, if that.”

Because of the low return-rate, UCC psychiatrists tend to prescribe medication during the first visit. This contributes to the large percentage of UCC students on medication, Fiala said.

“Students tend not to understand that being healthy mentally is a process, they need to come back more,” Fiala said.

To increase participation, APU is implementing e-mail reminders to UCC students beginning next school year. MCAPS will not implement a contact list as students are from five different colleges, according to DeGroot.

At 8:30 a.m. Drake is called into the office by Kuolos. As the school year is coming to an end, Drake receives her end-of-the-year assessment and summer supply of her anti-depressants.

In Fall 2017, Drake will return and continue her treatment at CAPS. She will continue therapy at home in San Diego during the summer.

“The most important thing is making myself go, I can’t do this alone,” Drake said.

The story above was written as an assignment for my Journalism 300 class. Information and quotes should not all be taken as fact.

“13 Reasons Why” suicide depiction raises concerns

The Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why,” based on the popular young adult book by Jay Asher with the same name, has been the subject of heated online discussion over its entertainment value vs. potential detrimental effects on viewers, since the show’s debut on March 31.

The show centers around high school student Hannah Baker, who makes tapes listing characters and what they did to influence her suicide. One character listens to the story unfold as the 13 episodes progress.

Some critics praised the show for realistically and boldly addressing mental health and suicide in the compelling series.

Some University of La Verne therapists and psychology students, however, claimed the drama romanticizes suicide, and the show’s graphic nature may “trigger” vulnerable viewers.

Viewer discretion essential

“This show is an issue across the board,” said Elleni Koulos, University of La Verne’s Counseling and Psychological Services Director.

CAPS staff member and psychology graduate student Tatiana Kassar, who has also watched the show, said she understands its entertainment value. She said her main concern as a mental health professional is the show’s impact on young adult and teenage viewers.

“The target audience does not have a fully developed prefrontal cortex,” she said. “They don’t have executive function yet.”

The prefrontal cortex controls personality expression, decision making, complex cognitive behavior and social behavior. Executive function includes reasoning, problem solving and control of inhibitions, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“We are 100 percent concerned about copy-cats,” Koulos said. “A lot of high schoolers have that ‘I’ll show you’ mentality, and now they not only have a how-to guide, but this unrealistic idea that this is how the aftermath of suicide will happen.”

The prefrontal cortex is not fully developed until approximately 25 years old, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

“High school was not that long ago for college students, so developmentally college students are in similar stages,” Kassar added.

“Any vulnerable college student could react to the show the same way as a junior high or high school student.”

Another concern the therapists raised was how accessible the graphic content is to children or those impressionable due to mental illness.

“All Netflix does to combat that is when you’re watching it will ask who’s watching,” said CAPS staff member and psychology graduate student Katherine Courtney. “All a kid has to do is click the adult’s profile and they have access to adult Netflix.”

On Netflix, ratings are only available in the show or movie’s overview, which a viewer must intentionally click to read.

According to the Netflix overview, “13 Reasons Why” is rated TV-MA, for mature adult audiences.

Trigger Warnings

The show does provide some trigger warnings, including a screen before the first episode reading: “This fictional series covers several difficult issues including depression and suicide. If you or anyone you know needs help finding support and crisis resources in your area, go to for more information.”

“There should be a much more explicit warning before you even get into the show about what exactly you might see or feel, because a screen is not going to stop people from pressing play once they are into it,” Kassar said.

The other warnings come before episodes that include sexual assaults and Hannah’s suicide.

“It’s after someone has been hooked on this show and may already be triggered,” Kassar said. “It should be at the beginning of every single episode.”

Courtney said that the show can also be upsetting to someone who has lost a loved one to suicide.

“The show does not consider what the effect might be on them in processing their own grief,” Courtney said.

Specifically, CAPS said, parents who watched the show may identify with Hannah’s parents and have a reaction.

“I often think about all the parents who have lost children to suicide and how triggering this show is for them,” Koulos said. “Reliving the blame all over again.”

The reaction of Hannah’s parent is a huge plotline in the show, Kassar said.

“We watch their experience and the scene where they come in, find her body, and that whole process,” Kassar said. “It’s hugely triggering for the family and parents of those who died by suicide.”

Graphic content is explicit

Another concern raised by the ULV therapists and the online community is the show’s use of graphic content, including two sexual assaults as well as Hannah’s suicide.

“I think that you can still talk about these issues without showing the graphic content,” Koulos said.

Kassar added that she felt sick watching the completed suicide scene.

“I think that there’s no need for anyone to ever see that,” Kassar said. “The camera doesn’t cut away, you just completely watch her bleed out. No one can unsee that.”

The CAPS staff said the technical accuracy of the act is troubling.

“In some ways, it’s a how-to guide,” Kassar said, adding that the sexual assault is also gratuitous in its explicitness.

The show includes two plot-lines surrounding the sexual assault of the main character Hannah and supporting character Jessica. The characters react to the assault differently: Hannah spirals into depression and later attributes the assault to her suicide, and Jessica represses the memory and self-medicates with alcohol.

The scenes are shot from a third-person perspective, but also the point of view of the attacker and the victim.

“It could be very triggering for someone who has been raped to see it in that graphic way,” Courtney said.

Staff at CAPS agreed that another accurate part of the show is its portrayal of depression.

“It definitely shows the darkness that someone who is suicidal goes through,” Kassar said. “It doesn’t really glamorize depression, which is good.”

She said the show demonstrates the roller-coaster those with depression experience.

“I think the show explains how a person that presented with really no symptoms at the beginning can go from that point and experience all these kinds of stressors in her life where she does end up killing herself,” Kassar said.

Difficult communication

Another aspect of the show, the CAPS staff criticized is the way the main character Hannah does not reach out for help until the day she decided to complete suicide, when she passively attempts to make her high school counselor, distracted by his ringing cell phone, recognize she needs help. She takes the tape recorder with her to the meeting and even speaks to her future audience as she fruitlessly waits for her counselor to run after her.

“She needed to talk about it,” Kassar said. “A missing piece of the show is that we saw all the things that happened and what went wrong, but we didn’t see much of her reaching out for help. It was, at the end, her last attempt.”

This too may be typical teenage behavior: wanting others to know something is wrong without having to tell them, the CAPS staff said. “A lot of teens don’t reach out,” Koulos said. “It takes a friend or a family member to convince them they need help and to talk.”

Kassar said that it was realistic that even Hannah’s parents, who were involved in her life by often checking in on her, and her counselor, who may have many students and not properly trained, could miss the clear signs of a suicidal person.

In the tapes, Hannah mentions that she wished they had asked her what was wrong one more time.

“There are scenes that show the audience what could have been done differently, but that’s not the case,” Kassar said. “She needed to reach out. You can’t be passive with your own mental health. It’s okay to talk about it, it’s okay not to be okay.”

Romanticizing suicide

The show follows Clay, Hannah’s friend, as he tries to come to terms with her death and reacts to the tapes. He often acts out against those listed in her tapes, even before reaching his own.

“This show casts all blame on those in the tapes, but the reason she killed herself is because she killed herself,” Kassar said. “That was a choice. Suicide is a choice.”

Kassar said the title of the show is indicative of blame.

“When someone in their lives kills themselves a lot of people sit with the ‘Did I cause that?’ feeling,” Kassar said. “To say “13 Reasons Why” implies causation.”

The title itself is where CAPS thinks the controversy that the show romanticizes suicide comes from.

“I think I would say it romanticizes suicide because of the 13 reasons component,” Kassar said. “It’s a very accurate representation of suicide itself, but it’s also very fictional because who, realistically, is going to make 13 tapes?”

CAPS staff explained the making of tapes, although not impossible, is not what a suicidal person would do.

“It’s an inaccurate representation of the mindset of someone who is actively going to kill themselves,” Kassar said. “To think that ‘I am absolutely going to do it, but first let me sit down and record these tapes and make a map and essentially avenge my death,’ is not realistic.”

The tapes can be interpreted as Hannah’s final act of vengeance.

“I do think the cognitive ability of some high schoolers is that (suicide) is a way to get back at people,” Koulos said.

CAPS staff stressed that suicide should not be interpreted that way.

“If you kill yourself, that’s it,” Kassar said. “You have no idea what’s going to happen and all of that information may never come out, so the show does romanticize the aftermath of suicide.”

According to Kassar, viewers get the feeling that Hannah, since she is narrating the tapes and therefore part of the show, is watching over the characters from death.

“The narration makes us think she’s watching and she’s not, or at least we don’t really know if she could, so that is very romanticized and fictional,” Kassar said.

Suicidal people are focused on the act, a reason there may not be a note with suicide attempts.

“This is a character who really detailed all the people who hurt her and it’s not always like that – a clear picture of why someone chose to end their life,” Courtney said. “Often times there isn’t a note or explanation, and even if you have those reasons, it doesn’t take away the pain of losing someone.”

Not for the vulnerable

The CAPS counselors do not recommend the show to anyone, especially those suffering from depression, suicidal thoughts or mental illness.

Kassar said that she would not recommend the show to patients or friends, but if someone told her they were going to watch it, she would give them a severe trigger warning.

“The show made it seem like suicide is the only solution, but it’s not, so in that way the show was very narrow and not as inclusive as it could be,” Kassar said. “If we could learn anything as a campus is that there are resources and people you can reach out to instead of trying to deal on your own.”

Courtney agreed that the show, although bringing to light sensitive subjects, should not be seen as realistic or a good step toward awareness.

“Overall, I don’t think the show is necessary. It’s not representative of someone who is actively suicidal. You cannot avenge your own death, and you can spread awareness without this triggering content,” Courtney said.

Koulos said that despite CAPS’ negative review of the show, they are using it as a platform.

“I think the problem with the show overall is that you can spread awareness in other ways, like educating people,” Koulos said. “It doesn’t have to be that explicit and graphic. The good thing that came out of this is that we can use this to start a conversation about mental health and give people 13 reasons why not,” Koulos said.

Kassar said that bullying, sexual assault, depression and other issues Hannah had could be dealt with by seeking professional help.

“So many people have gone through these issues and not committed suicide, and I wish it showed more of that,” Kassar said. “We may have all kinds of experiences, positive and negative, but how are you going to use that to make yourself better or others better? Suicide is not the only solution.”

CAPS helps over 300 students annually. The program has over 3,000 appointments a year and does both individual and group appointments.

“If Hannah were at ULV, I’d tell her to come to CAPS,” Koulos said.

To make an appointment, students can call CAPS at 909-448-4178 or visit the CAPS office at 2215 E St in La Verne, located at the corner of Second Street and E Street. Concerns about the mental health or safety of an individual can be submitted through a Behavior and Wellness Referral Report via the CAPS webpage at

CAPS recommends contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network at 1-800-656-4673 for 24-hour and weekend emergencies.

This story was originally published by The Campus Times.

Seven student films to be screened

Seven student films were selected and will be screened at the at Sixth Annual Inland Empire Media Academy Film Festival starting at 7 p.m. today.

San Bernardino Valley College will host the festival in the library viewing room, featuring work from students attending high school, community college, private or public universities in the Inland Empire.

The films were entered into the festival by Professor of Communications Don Pollock in April without the students’ knowledge. They found out they were entered in the competition when they received an email inviting them to the festival.

Pollock entered seven of the student-made films including comedy “Powdered Treason,” experimental film “The Girl,” as well as documentaries “Drifting Through Her Currents,” “Graber Olives,” “Entertainment at the Fair,” “Rancho Remembers” and “Be Perfect.”

The films were made by sophomore television broadcast majors Savannah Henry and Florencia Schinoff, junior television broadcast majors Paloma Bobadilla, Crystal Cellian, Dylan McElligott and Jacob Ramirez, senior television broadcast majors Ezra Broadus, Scott Feuerhelm, Jada Gamble, Shanyn McFadden, Alexis Moya, Steve Rodgers, Daniel Romero, Marc Salomon, Tina Sanchez and senior broadcast journalism majors Michael Hernandez, Joseph Orozco and Lauren Van Lul.

Thirteen categories were available for entry: News/Reality/Documentary, Action/Adventure, Comedy/Romantic Comedy, Crime/Drama/Film Noir, Family/Children, Science Fiction/Thriller/Horror/Fantasy, Musical, Animation, Experimental, Romance, Native American Film/Culture or other.

The social media category was an additional category for films that were promoted with a strong social media platform including a Facebook page or Twitter profile.

Trophies will be awarded to winners of categories with two or more entries.

Van Lul directed the film “Be Perfect.”

She worked with Bobadilla, Orozco and Hernandez to complete the film about the Be Perfect Foundation created by alumnus Hal Hargrave in 2007.

“The foundation helps people with spinal cord injuries and Hal started it after he was injured himself,” Van Lul said.

Van Lul added that she will be attending the film festival and that winners are expected to give a short speech.

“We get to stand up and show our stuff,” Van Lul said.

Pollock previously entered the films into other local competitions, including the Alliance for Community Media western region conference March 10. Students, faculty and alumni were finalists for seven Western Access Video Excellence awards.

Two alumni won awards and “Be Perfect” won the Accessibility-Abled Programming (Community Producer) award.

For more information and tickets visit

This story was originally published by The Campus Times.

ELD System raises concerns

As 9:30 a.m. rolls around, 11-year-old Juan Aguillar anxiously stares outside the window from his plastic blue chair, bouncing his leg and tapping his pencil on his desk as he watches as the overcast sky dims the jungle gym outside. He watches the third and fourth grade students having recess. His teacher has reminded him to read his book, Mr. Frog and Mr. Toad, three times within the last 20 minutes.

He chose the book from his teacher’s library based of her two sticker system. The top sticker indicates the grade level of the book, the bottom sticker on the difficulty. Aguillar always chooses a book with a top sticker reading six and the bottom sticker reading one.

Despite his teacher’s sticker system, he still has difficulty reading the book written in English. At 12-years-old, Aguillar is not fluent in English, and has known the language half of his life. His parents, a migrant farm worker and a cleaning woman, brought him to the United States from Mexico at 6-years-old.

The Spanish-speaking student spends his Friday mornings in an English Language Development, or ELD, class with eight other students. At his third through sixth-grade school, sixth-grade ELD students spend Fridays with a bilingual teacher, trained to help students whose second language is English.

Since the early 2000s, California Elementary School has had an English as a Second Language, or ESL, program. Bilingual teaching aides were assigned a child to provide one-on-one help the whole school day.

In 2006, the school’s ESL program catered to a record 28 kids, a more than 50 percent increase from the previous school year.

“We had to hire more aides, and even then they had two students instead of one,” ELD teacher Amber Spina said.

As a result, at the start of the 2007-2008 school year, the school began its ELD program. ELD students in each grade have a specified day for an ELD class.

Although ELD students only make up 7.57 percent of the school’s students, the school spends 30 percent more on ELD students than non-ELD students.

“The technology we provide for them is more expensive than non-ELD students,” Spina said. “The school provides ELD students with laptops during the school day and an individualized Rosetta Stone program.”

Despite ELD teachers’ efforts at the elementary level, the district has noticed a downhill trend in students graduating from the ELD program. From the 2012-13 school year to the 2015-16 school year, 7.5 percent points less students were redesignated as English fluent, or students no longer in need of the ELD program. The decreasing amount of students graduating from the ELD program has become a trend in the last decade. Seventeen percent less students tested out of the program at sixth-grade in 2016 than in 2006.

“This decrease has inspired us to implement an individualized Rosetta Stone program than a general one, and we’re in the talks of reintroducing the one-on-one aides,” Principal Lori Wildes said. “But with that, comes the need for more funding, which means the gap in what we spend on ELD students and what we spend on non-ELD students is growing.”

At 9:45 a.m. the bell rings, notifying fifth- and sixth-graders that their 15-minute recess begins. Aguillar immediately perks up, drops his book, and runs to the door. Before he gets out the threshold, Spina reminds him to push in his chair and return the book to the library.

He turns around and does as he’s told with a sense of urgency and quickly runs out the door for recess, straight to the jungle gym.