New mental health service underused

Though the new mental health fellows program introduced by the Yale College Council this fall was a staple of YCC Vice President Omar Njie’s ’13 campaign, relatively few students are aware of the program.

The program, which pairs each residential college with a member of Yale’s mental health staff, has only been advertised to freshmen and sophomores at Yale and has yet to reach all 12 colleges. Njie said the YCC is trying to delicately phase in a program that addresses a sensitive issue on campus, but has also prioritized alerting more students of its existence. Indeed, only one of 10 students interviewed had heard of the new initiative.

“The program is slowly being rolled out because mental health is a sensitive subject,” Njie said. “In order for this program to be successful everything needs to be conducted carefully and thoughtfully.”

So far, the program has been implemented in seven colleges, Njie said, and aims to make Yale Health’s counseling services more accessible to students. To better integrate the fellows into their colleges and further advertise the new program, the YCC is also developing workshops that focus on stress management, dietary habits and other healthy practices, he said, adding that he hopes to have the program fully in place by Thanksgiving.

While the fellows do not counsel students directly, they are supposed to offer undergraduates advice on how best to utilize the University’s available mental health resources.

Nicole Hobbs ’14, a member of Ezra Stiles College, said she was introduced to her college’s fellow at a sophomore advising meeting Oct. 10, but said she did not know of anyone who had used the fellow as a resource. Hobbs added that she thinks the program is a good idea, because it gives students another outlet for coping with overwhelming schoolwork and stress.

One sophomore in Saybrook College, who spoke anonymously because she wished to keep details of her counseling private, said she saw mental health counselors at Yale Health throughout last year and had a positive experience with those services. But she said she sought counseling about longer-term issues with family members, and that the new mental health fellows in colleges strike her as geared more toward students dealing with short-term, school-related stress.

She added that she thinks mental health programs are often underused because people can be reluctant to admit they need help.

“I feel like people don’t think their problems are big enough to be worth talking to someone about,” she said.

Zak Newman ’13, who had no knowledge of the YCC program until asked if he would use the new resource, said he thinks the new service will need to overcome a stigma that surrounds mental health at Yale. Using mental health resources is “looked down upon” by many ambitious students on campus, he said.

Njie said he understands that students are often reluctant to approach a mental health counselor, but that the program was largely created to address this attitude.

“These are professionals, so again this is to have a first point of contact that you can reach,” he said. “Your deans and masters are great resources, but not everyone necessarily feels comfortable talking to [them].”

Despite the lack of student awareness for the mental health program, Njie said what feedback the YCC has received so far has been positive. Neither Njie nor YCC President Brandon Levin ’13 were able to specify how they have been measuring the student response.

The YCC mental health committee, which organized the new fellows program, meets in Silliman College room 417 every Thursday at 8 p.m.


  • HaroldAMaio

    overcome a ‘stigma’ that surrounds mental health at Yale. – Zak Newman, and Editors
    I do not believe Yale tolerates, promotes, abides “stigmas.” Certainly journalism does not.

    Please redact this online statement, it offends.

    Rephrase “overcome a” positively, “encourage,” for example.

    Harold A. Maio, retired Mental Health Editor

  • The Anti-Yale

    Depreession is the dis-ease that tells you you’re too depressed to care whether or not you get well.
    Insidious, and sometimes fatal.

    Paul Keane

  • JohnnyE

    >“I feel like people don’t think their problems are big enough to be worth talking to someone about,” she said.

    Maybe that means they don’t actually have real problems then. To assert that mental health services are “underused” is crude at best. This suggests that there is some optimal rate of use for the service. Can you pinpoint it? Should 5% of Yalies be mentally ill? 10%?

  • River_Tam

    JohnnyE gets it right. It’s like how administrators get embarrassed by low rape numbers because it automatically means rape is “under-reported”.

  • jfrank123

    Actually River you and Johnny get it entirely wrong!!! Your comments also are a huge part of the problem.

    Mental illnesses like depression affect MILLIONS of people every year, including many of your peers! Moreover, I would venture to say that Yalies may even be MUCH MORE susceptible to mental illness (high stress environment, intelligent people). The question is not whether XYZ% of Yalies “should” be mentally ill–of course no one “should” be. The question is whether those who are mentally ill are getting the help that they need!

    Of course students are mentally ill at Yale; to claim otherwise is extremely naive. Let’s spend our time trying to help those that need it rather than pretend that Yalies are somehow “above” mental illness. I know some good friends at Yale who avoided getting help for too long precisely because of this type of flawed thinking.

  • claypoint2

    Johnny E: Sadly, comments like yours both reflect the stigma and perpetuate it.

    Talking to a counselor doesn’t mean that a person is mentally ill. Everyone – no one is exempt – needs to lean on others at some point in life, and this does not suggest that a person is either mentally ill or deficient. On the contrary, it means that they are human. Countless people have found it beneficial to have a completely confidential, non-judgmental setting in which to be heard and emotionally held, as well as a safe space in which to reflect on what is troubling them.

    Life is hard, especially at times. It’s ok to admit it and not to bear the burden alone.

  • anonymouz

    They have a long way to go if only 1 of 10 students even know about the new facilities and services.

  • penny_lane

    jfrank123, the issue is more that JohnnyE and River jump straight from “speaking to a counselor” to “being mentally ill.” Everyone needs counseling from time to time, whether they have a mental disorder or no. Maybe a student wants to talk about a break-up, the death of a loved one, a class they’re struggling in. Everyone goes through these kinds of stresses, and its been a long standing complaint that Mental Health services weren’t set up to deal with students who had short-term, one time issues and didn’t need long-term counseling.

  • joey00

    Mental Health diseases are color blind and cannot be capped by an income ceiling..
    if students had high grade point averages ,excelled and made the grade, i doubt that there is any major health issue that cannot be addressed , especially after they admit to it. If one takes a laboror about campus who sees not the issue of chronic lying and/or other worse incidents they get caught at,and deny that they have an issue and see no problem in their terrifying actions.
    I suppose both groups have paid to be there,