Yalies want to talk about mental health issues. As a campus, we are largely able to discuss the stresses and challenges that we all face as Yalies in a high-intensity academic environment, but our conversation falters when we are confronted by more serious, long-term problems.
To impact the day-to-day lives of students, President-elect Peter Salovey’s administration must cut through Yale Health’s bureaucracy to bring effective mental health care to campus.
Students seeking psychological treatment may initially feel alone or anxious. Admitting a need for real medical help is hard — especially for Yale students. The stigma surrounding mental health issues discourages many students from coming forward. Yale cannot single-handedly reverse the unfortunate stigmatization of mental health issues in our society, but our University can take conscious steps to lessen the institutional barriers that preclude students from seeking help.
Getting mental health treatment at Yale should be not a maze. The lack of a clear and streamlined process ultimately discourages many students from seeking help. Students often face waiting times that belie the severity or immediacy of their problem, and an unnecessarily opaque website only worsens the red tape.
Students seeking immediate counseling such as grief counseling are often burdened by waits that may last weeks. By the time these students can get appointments, they may have already sought help elsewhere. Yale should guarantee that students can see a professional within a short, standardized amount of time.
Students seeking long-term counseling for chronic illness are similarly disadvantaged. Yale Health’s website states that “individual therapy is available on a short-term basis,” but offers no information on what constitutes short-term, as well as no obvious destination for students requiring long-term services. Students may be forced to turn off campus to find resources that they believed would be made available on campus. Yale commits itself to four-year physical health, but the double-standard concerning mental health issues jeopardizes students’ ability to receive adequate long-term treatment. Moving forward, Yale must be able to triage effectively between short and long-term cases without denying any student timely care.
Moreover, mental health professionals often serve as gatekeepers. In certain extreme cases, their evaluations can determine whether a student with pressing mental health issues will be permitted to remain on campus, or forced to take a leave of absence. Students hear stories of other students compelled to leave campus for a semester, or admitted Yalies forced to defer enrollment.
Of course, Yale Health should be empowered to take some kind of preventative actions to deter students from self-harm. But simply sending students with mental illness away from campus can send the message that Yale is unwilling to engage with these students — and this reputation deters students from coming forward for help.
Our dialogue about mental health cannot be only reactive to campus tragedy. We must broaden our daily conversations to demand answers and action from those who lead us.