With a fierce passion for helping those in need, University of New Mexico senior Shanti Rosen works at the Agora Crisis Center on campus to uplift students and community members, especially during the trying times of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Rosen, who is double majoring in psychology and sociology, realized they wanted to work at Agora in high school, when information cards were being “passed around like candy.” They were inspired by the idea of helping people by giving them the support they wouldn’t otherwise get.

Speaking on the importance of looking after one’s mental health, Rosen emphasized that surviving isn’t thriving.

“Society can’t function if we’re not taking care of ourselves,” Rosen said. “You can’t enjoy life or grow or flourish as a person if you’re not tending to yourself.” 

Having grown up in a small commune in California, Rosen said the culture there was very one-dimensional and people generally thought one particular way. Although moving to New Mexico came with big-time culture shock, Rosen said Albuquerque definitely feels like home.

“Albuquerque never pretends to be anything other than it is, and I really, really like that,” Rosen said.

Rosen is the recruitment and training coordinator at Agora, and they organize and train volunteers who monitor the 24/7 helpline. Agora outreach coordinator Lauren White said Rosen is a lifelong friend.

“Shanti is the most empathetic person I’ve ever met,” White said. “They are so unrelentingly supportive ... I think every volunteer has Shanti’s number in their phone.”

In the midst of the pandemic, Agora lost half of its staff because student volunteers were graduating. This, along with the otherwise harrowing day-to-day life of a person living through the COVID-19 pandemic, has given Rosen interesting insight into how COVID has affected mental health — both their own and the community’s.

“I think that the pandemic has two sides, (one of them) where people have finally been able to work on their mental health because of the stay-at-home orders,” Rosen said. “I think it’s also been a lot worse because there’s this constant fear of dying, of getting COVID, of your loved ones being hurt. So it’s kind of a double-edged sword of (the lockdown) can help, or it can really hurt.”

Rosen’s own experience with the pandemic has mirrored the previous sentiment; at first, Rosen would only leave their house to go to Agora and felt it was nice to have the extra time to focus on themself. However, as the pandemic raged on, Rosen expressed that it had gotten “difficult and painful” to live through.

White said that even though Rosen is human just like anyone else, they are there for anyone at Agora at any time.

“(Rosen’s) not just there to fix the problem, but to also make sure you’re okay, and that you process that call and you know that you did everything well,” White said.

If there’s one thing Rosen wants people to know, it’s that anyone can and should call when they need to. 

“We want to talk to them, we want to help them, even if they’re just having a really bad day,” Rosen said. “They’re never wasting our time, ever.”

Emma Trevino is the culture editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at culture@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @itsemmatr