It has been two weeks since the Day of Caring, a day in which the fast-pace of the Dartmouth term slowed to allow students to pause and grieve the recent deaths of several students, faculty and staff. Words cannot describe how vital the Day of Caring was for the Dartmouth community: The pandemic and all its resulting disruption has yielded nothing short of a full-blown mental health crisis among students, exacerbated by the College’s lack of action. A study of Dartmouth students found that symptoms of anxiety and depression increased in spring 2020 — the first full academic term of pandemic-era restrictions — mapping onto national trends from the early pandemic. What’s more, at least five Dartmouth students died by suicide from November 2020 to September 2022.
In response to all of this, Dartmouth students have protested the lack of mental health resources that have been available for students to get support. This has ranged from multiple cases of vandalism on campus to countless columns written in this paper arguing for the College to end involuntary mental leaves, improve the 24-hour crisis hotline and repair the workaholic culture of campus, among others. This and previous Editorial Boards have all called on the College to give students space to grieve and listen to its students’ “cries for help” — a simple request that went unheeded for years.
Until this week. On Tuesday, Dartmouth rolled out its partnership with UWill, an online therapy and wellness provider that students can use from anywhere in the United States. The service provides students with unlimited teletherapy from licensed mental health professionals, in treating a wide variety of conditions. UWill also offers 24/7 crisis support to students. These services are available at no cost to all Dartmouth students, including those on off terms and on leave.
We cannot overstate the magnitude of this change. Dartmouth’s partnership with UWill follows extensive advocacy from students and organizations on campus, and UWill’s services directly address shortcomings in Dartmouth’s mental health infrastructure. Unlike Dartmouth’s own Counseling Center — whose weeks-long wait and lack of long-term care resources are an impediment to students seeking mental health support — UWill is designed to offer support quickly and conveniently for whatever length of time the patient needs.
And it adds real weight to the push to recenter campus culture following the Day of Caring. One day was a noble start, but that alone is hardly enough to remedy years of institutional failure to respond to mental health concerns. In other words, one Day of Caring cannot foster the future of caring this campus deserves. UWill starts to bridge the gap between a single day and a mountain of change, offering around-the-clock access to treatment for both acute and chronic mental health conditions and improving the general well-being of the study body.
For this, we ask one thing of the student body: Take advantage of UWill.
We ask this of our fellow students knowing it may be a big step for some. Dartmouth’s historically failing mental health infrastructure has left many students — including a number of us on this Editorial Board — hesitant of any mental health support offered by the College. And it’s true that we cannot know what impacts UWill will have on campus, be they positive or negative. Still, we are encouraged by high rates of student satisfaction at other campuses that use UWill, especially as it isn’t associated directly with any one institution — crucially, honesty during teletherapy sessions is not punished with forced emergency mental health leave.
UWill is not perfect — no service can be — nor does it solve all of Dartmouth’s problems concerning mental health. Namely, the forced medical leave policy is still inhumane and strips students of agency, and many students do not trust the Counseling Center for fear of being sent home on medical leave. Students must continue to pressure the administration to promote positive change for campus. Nonetheless, the leap that UWill makes for improving campus is monumental, and we ought not take for granted the benefits of free, readily available mental health support for students.
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