Corporation, YCC consider mental health

A six-month review of Yale’s mental health resources conducted by experts from peer universities was presented to the Yale Corporation this past weekend.

University President Richard Levin said the review was scheduled as a routine examination of Yale’s mental health services, and covered general policy issues and resource organization. During the same period of time, the Yale College Council planned and implemented a mental health program within the residential colleges, which was evaluated as part of the peer review and presented to the Corporation by the YCC. Because of the recently concluded review, Levin said the University will not conduct another assessment of its mental health resources in response to the death of Zachary Brunt ’15 last Wednesday, which was ruled a suicide by the state medical examiner’s office.

“We bring in outside experts to do periodic evaluations,” Levin said. “That’s the way we measure ourselves and calibrate ourselves by having outside experts from other institutions take a look at our academic units and our nonacademic support units.”

Levin described the review as “very positive,” though he declined to comment on specific findings. University Vice President and Secretary Linda Lorimer said the report was not for the public.

“The [external committee] reviewed relevant materials and visited the campus to view the facilities and interview members of the department and the Yale community,” Deputy Provost Stephanie Spangler said in a Wednesday email to the News. “Although the external committee has not yet submitted its final report, I can tell you that the exit interview and initial feedback from the reviewers has been quite positive.”

Though Brunt’s death was mentioned at the Corporation meeting, Levin said the tragedy was not a major factor in discussions of the peer review.

Still, the YCC concluded Wednesday that the number of students using their residential college services has increased in the week following Brunt’s death.

“The past week has shown that the program has the ability to be proactive and reactive,” outgoing YCC Vice President Omar Njie ’13 said.

The YCC announced the new mental health fellows program, which places a professional from Yale Health in each of the residential colleges, at the beginning of the fall semester and began to implement the initiative toward the end of March.

Receptions or workshops introducing the mental health fellow to each college’s students have been held in six residential colleges, Njie said. He added that events are scheduled in some of the remaining colleges before the term ends, though some colleges will not hold events this year. Njie said he thinks the Davenport reception, which was scheduled in early April and took place Wednesday afternoon, was particularly valuable because it focused on helping students manage stress from reading week and finals.

While the YCC had aimed to implement the fellows program at a faster pace, Njie said the council is now hoping to finish the process by the early fall.

“Throughout the year we hit a few roadblocks,” Njie said. “Things progressed slower than we would have hoped but it gave us a chance to outline the program again.”

Beginning this coming fall, incoming freshmen will meet their residential college’s mental health fellow during freshman orientation, Njie said. Follow-up meetings will take place in October, he said, as “school can be a blur” in the first few weeks. He added that the fellows will also hold a few workshops that are open to all members of their residential college.

Njie said the number of freshmen who see mental health counselors at Yale Health has gone up this year, which helped motivate the YCC to gear its mental health program toward freshmen in the fall.

The first mental health fellow reception was held in Berkeley College on March 21.

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