Mental Health Around the Ivies
While 25 percent of Brown students have been previously medicated for mental illness and 40 percent have had counseling before coming to Brown, only 17 percent seek help from the school’s Counseling and Psychological Services, The Brown Daily Herald reported. In 2012, Julia Lynford ’14 and Samantha English ’14 established Active Minds, a national organization dedicated to promoting mental health awareness and education at colleges. Every semester, Active Minds hosts two “safe-space” discussions, where students have the opportunity to speak about particular mental health topics. In addition to these discussions, Active Minds also hosts mental health speakers on campus, facilitates panel discussions and conducts workshops. Yuri Tomikawa ’12 was also proactive in promoting mental health on the university’s campus. She created a new website, Zencare.co, that helps students find local therapists based on their insurance providers and personality matches.
— Megan Clyne, The Dartmouth
Following the suspected suicide of a first year student last year, Columbia’s mental health task force conducted a survey and released selected results, The Columbia Spectator reported. The survey found that students who identified themselves as LGBTQ and/or people of color were less satisfied with psychological services. The task force recently submitted a memo that includes specific proposals to expand psychological service’s staffing and space, extend drop-in hours to midnight and weekends, emphasize more diverse hiring, strengthen the University’s crisis response and create a mental health orientation program for freshmen. According to members of the task force, students are waiting for several weeks for a general appointment and drop-in waits can be up to three or four hours long. The task force also hopes to secure academic accommodations for mentally ill students such as extensions on assignments. Finally, the task force has requested a more concrete protocol for the administration responding to “off campus tragedies,” since students are concerned that there is currently little support and follow-up. The task force hopes to increase transparency, access, and trust between administrators and students. This year, six clinicians have been added to Columbia’s psychological services and their offices have been expanded to a larger, more central space.
— Amanda Zhou, The Dartmouth
This fall, Cornell was named as one of five universities to receive the 2015 Active Minds Healthy Campus Award for a “cohesive, innovative public health approach to student health and wellness,” The Cornell Daily Sun reported. This comes after a 2008 survey found that 23 percent of respondents experienced a form of depression and 33 percent felt high levels of stress. Cornell has adopted the “Let’s Talk” program, a national model in which counselors hold drop-in hours without paperwork. Between 400 and 500 students have taken advantage of the program. Although the program has been met with success, members of heath services acknowledge that there is still room for improvement. In a summer New York Times piece, the Cornell director of counseling and psychological services cited social media as a primary component of propagating a false sense of happiness on the outside. Cornell Minds Matter is the primary student organization dedicated to improving access to mental health services and organizes 165 programs each semester. Additionally, Cornell has a special mental health task force focused on supporting Asian and Asian American students. From 1996 to 2004, over half of the campus suicides involved students from Asian backgrounds despite a 14 percent Asian student body.
— Amanda Zhou, The Dartmouth
Harvard University Health Services has reopened a newly-renovated space within Stillman Infirmary, its overnight observation center, the Harvard Crimson reported. The renovations were designed to increase efficiency within the hospital by consolidating emergency care spaces onto a single floor. The resources freed by the renovation can now be used more efficiently, increasing the ability of the staff to respond to other issues, including mental health. Originally Harvard planned to remove the fifth-floor observation area entirely, citing low usage by students, in order to redirect more resources towards mental health efforts. Following this announcement, however, there were widespread student protests emphasizing the importance of the overnight center. In response the University backed down from its initial plan and maintained that it will continue to expand mental health resources by 20 to 25 percent.
— Zachary Benjamin, The Dartmouth
This fall, Princeton initiated a “UMatter” campaign in an attempt to promote the health and safety of Princeton students, the Daily Princetonian reported. UMatter attempts to synthesize existent programs to create one means of aiding health and safety on campus. Princeton also incorporated feedback from its students to create UMatter and consequently found that many students reacted positively toward the program. UMatter itself is as an online resource where students can find information regarding four main components necessary for a safe campus — being an effective bystander, making healthy choices, caring for others and taking action. The campaign also encompasses threats to on-campus safety, including interpersonal violence, unsafe drinking and mental health distress. In order to minimize these threats, UMatter does not simply provide information, but focuses on the ways in which students can implement that information in real life situations. For example, UMatter is working to establish a reward system for bystander intervention by offering coupons and giveaways via social media. It also has identified stressful times of the year and plans to send uplifting messages to alleviate stress.
— Anna Starpoli, The Dartmouth
University of Pennsylvania:
In the wake of six suicides within 15 months, Penn has taken steps to improve mental health on campus. Last spring, Penn joined the Campus Program, a four-year collaboration between The Jed Foundation and The Clinton Foundation that requires universities to complete self-assessments and establish an oversight committee to monitor progress on mental health efforts. Other universities involved include Cornell, Princeton and Columbia. In February, students, administrators and counseling and psychological services formed a committee to oversee all campus mental health programs and initiatives. The task force is particularly focused on eliminating “Penn Face,” — the culture of appearing effortlessly perfect. The task force released a report with four central recommendations — increasing communication about mental health resources, making information about resources more accessible, educating and training the Penn community on mental health and optimizing the resources devoted to counseling and psychological services. Additionally, a petition on Change.org calls for the removal of barriers between students and help by allowing anonymous visits and online scheduling. This fall, Penn President Amy Gutmann and each of the keynote speakers at freshman convocation exercises addressed the issue straight on, urging students not to fear asking for help from the community. Penn also is considering instituting a program that matches each of the 2500 freshmen with a “wellness advisor” in case mental help is needed.
— Amanda Zhou, The Dartmouth
Changes at Yale University’s Mental Health and Counseling department, made in response to student suggestions, include new staff clinicians, a redesigned website and an electronic appointment scheduling program that allows students to make secure appointments with their MHS clinicians via computer or mobile phone. The MHC’s website has also been improved to be more easily navigable. MHC offers students personalized short-term therapy options, as well as classes and events that cover topics such as depression and stress reduction. Secretary and vice president for student life Kimberly Goff-Crews emphasized the integration of wellness in daily life, encouraging students to take advantage of the resources available. She announced “The Wellness Project” to enhance support for mental health services and inspire a culture of holistic wellness. This initiative envisions the “embrace of wellness as a core value and as a continual journey toward emotional, physical, social, intellectual, professional and spiritual well-being.” A newly created Student Wellness website will serve as the platform for all the information regarding student services associated with mental health and wellness. In conjunction to living with increased wellness, the Payne Whitney Gymnasium on campus has extended its hours to provide a more flexible schedule for students to exercise.
— Paula Mendoza, The Dartmouth