Tag Archives: girls

Messages on the Wall

8 Dec

You pass it every day without so much as a fleeting thought. It covers freeway passes, it is carved into desks and trees and it lines the walls of bathroom stalls.

Graffiti has become so ubiquitous that its intent is routinely overlooked and its words are seldom viewed as anything more than the defacement of property by careless delinquents. But what are the stories behind these anonymous scribes? Are these words merely written for cheap thrills or is there a deeper expression beyond the surface?

Across Cal State Fullerton’s campus, female students are hiding behind the cloak of anonymity and tagging the walls of the women’s restrooms. The stalls proclaim: “don’t be afraid,” “legalize weed November 2010,” “remember you’re beautiful without him or her” and “good luck on your tests!”

Girls pose the questions: “is casual sex with friends OK at all?”, “how do you go from being boyfriend and girlfriend to just friends?” and “why are guys so dumb?” with a list of reasons from several different participants. One student writes, “if I had to choose between loving you and breathing, I would use my last breath to say I love you” and another confesses, “having depression has ruined me but in some ways, it’s saved me too. I know who I am now.”

“I just have to stop and read it sometimes because it’s interesting. I think it’s way easier to write on a bathroom wall than to go up to someone’s face and talk about it. That’s why this generation is so addicted to Facebook and all the other social networking sites. They don’t know how to have interpersonal communication. There’s a complete lack of face-to-face (interaction),” said Ashley Pillabough, an English major at CSUF.

Anthropology major Breana Cumberland enjoys reading the graffiti and is disappointed when the conversations are painted over. She worries about the people who ask for personal advice. “I feel like they don’t have anyone who they can go to, to talk to. It sucks when people write ‘you’re stupid’ or ‘you’re a bitch.’ It’s like really? Support! Even if it’s from a bathroom wall,” Cumberland said.

However, not all students are as receptive to the graffiti as Pillabough and Cumberland. Freshman Michelle Ruiz said, “I don’t think it’s right. It’s just a waste of time. They’re asking for advice on a bathroom wall. There are things here at school you can go to to get help where you don’t have to vandalize the school.”

What Ruiz refers to are the eight individual counseling sessions that each CSUF student is allotted per academic year. The service is covered by the student health fee but the sessions are remarkably underutilized. According to the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) appointment statistics, of the 68,873 students enrolled at CSUF during the 2009-10 academic year, only 1,162 students visited a counselor using an average of six sessions.

Students may opt for anonymous disclosure rather than seek counseling due to shyness or the lack of a support system but Sapna Chopra, a professor in the master’s program of counseling, believes that it is society’s perception of therapy that prevents people from reaching out.

“Over the past 10 years or so, there has been a real rise in the number of students with serious mental health issues, not just on our campus, but across the country. And sadly, there is still a great deal of shame and stigma for many people to seek help.”

Ya-Shu Liang, a licensed psychologist at the Counseling and Psychological Services (part of the Student Health and Counseling Center) said that the biggest issue she sees CSUF students for, is stress. She urges any student who is considering counseling to try it at least once. Coming here doesn’t mean you have a diagnosis. There are tons of people (who) will never seek help so coming here means that you’re brave enough to talk about it with somebody who might know a little more than your peers. It’s not like your friends and parents are not helpful; it’s the role that they have. They cannot help by having an opinion. They are not really impartial but what a counselor can do is be more objective.”

Nursing major Rachelle Ramiento proposes that the anonymous outpouring of emotions on the restroom walls is just another trend of our generation. Ongoing projects such as Post Secret, where people anonymously share their secrets on homemade postcards and send them to a designated P.O. box, and 1,000 journals, an experiment that attempts to follow 1,000 journals as they travel across the world and continuously change hands, have catapulted the phenomenon of anonymous self-disclosure to fame.

At a time when our means of communication are faster and more accessible than ever, it’s hard to understand how it has led to an emotional disconnection from our peers where, for some, anonymity seems like the only way to have their voices heard. In the 2010 Healthy Minds Survey, 9 percent of CSUF students admitted to seriously thinking about attempting suicide, a statistic higher than that of the number of students who visited CAPS.

Not everyone is comfortable seeing a counselor or sharing their problems with family and friends but anyone can hide behind a pen or a screen name without worrying about being associated with their message. Whether you see graffiti as vandalism or just another mode of expression, it is here to stay. Pay attention to its words and you just might find that there’s a stronger connection between you and your fellow students than you initially thought.

Originally published at The Daily Titan

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