YCC, grad students release mental health reports

In an effort to spark a conversation between students and administrators about mental health at Yale, the Yale College Council released a 41-page report this weekend focusing on problems related to resources and campus culture.

After spending several months collecting responses from roughly 1,000 undergraduates and conducting individual interviews with dozens of students, the YCC sent its report to the Yale community on Sunday night. The report identified strengths and weaknesses within peer resources and Yale Health resources, and compiled student comments and recommendations on campus attitudes toward mental health. Separately, on Monday afternoon, a committee made up of representatives from the Graduate Student Assembly and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate also released its own mental health study conducted on Yale’s graduate students, detailing specific initiatives such as increasing accessibility to resources and addressing larger social issues.

According to YCC President Danny Avraham ’15 and the report’s three authors — Mira Vale ’13, John Gerlach ’14 and Reuben Hendler ’14 — the YCC report marks a significant step toward the start of an important discussion between undergraduates and administrators about how to improve mental health resources and attitudes at Yale.

“Yale is hard. We need to feel comfortable acknowledging that Yale is oftentimes difficult, and find ways to support ourselves and each other,” Hendler said.

The YCC report found that 39 percent of the 995 undergraduates surveyed have sought support from mental health and counseling at Yale Health. On average, it took five to six days for undergraduates to schedule an intake appointment, between one and two weeks to be assigned a therapist after their initial intake appointment, and between one and two additional weeks to see a therapist after receiving their assignment.

When asked whether the scheduling process at Yale Health for mental health issues was “reasonable and efficient,” 55 percent of students replied negatively.

Avraham said some of the report’s recommendations will take years to carry out, while others will be more immediate. For example, increasing the capacity of Yale Health’s mental health and counseling staff will likely take years, he said. Hendler and Gerlach added that cultivating a campus culture in which students value taking care of themselves as much as being successful is a long-term process that will require significant student input.

But Avraham also said he hopes some changes can be made by the end of the academic year, adding that some of the report’s recommendations — such as implementing changes to the scheduling process for appointments — can be achieved in a shorter time period. Gerlach said he is excited by the large amount of “actionable pieces of recommendation” in the report overall.

Meanwhile, the Graduate Student Assembly and Graduate and Professional Schools Senate created a joint ad-hoc committee in the last academic year and launched their report online on Monday afternoon. Paul Baranay GRD ’18, co-chair of the committee that authored the report, said the GSA-GPSS committee focused on three things: increasing accessibility to mental health resources by reducing wait times and increasing staff, addressing student workload and stress and improving culture surrounding mental health by reducing stigma and increasing visibility.

While both the YCC and GSA-GPSS reports emphasized long wait times and poor communication as areas that could be improved, the GSA-GPSS report recommended specific and immediately actionable items such as lengthening gym and library hours and increasing alcohol-free socializing opportunities.

“We have no student union. When the gym and library close, we can’t go back to our residential colleges like the undergrads. We’re fractured,” said Daniel Wald SPH ’14, co-chair of the committee.

Baranay said that instead of having mental health resources centered at Yale Health on Lock Street alone, spreading counselors and services throughout campus could help to increase accessibility, especially because Yale Health is far from areas of campus such as West Campus and the School of Medicine. Wald said that having to walk all the way to Yale Health is not always feasible, and that students can sometimes have difficulty explaining the trip to their friends.

Wald and Baranay said they are meeting with Yale Health Chief Psychologist Lorraine Siggins and Yale Health publicity administrators in order to turn the report’s recommendations into reality.

Ernest Baskin SOM ’15, who was involved with the report as chair of the Yale Health Member Advisory Committee, said the committee will soon send emails to the graduate and professional student body with a link to the report, highlighting specific findings and recommendations.

In response to the findings of the YCC report, Avraham said he is currently in communication with several administrators, including Siggins, Yale College Dean Mary Miller, Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews and University President Peter Salovey.

Mental health and counseling services are currently included in the basic health coverage plan for all undergraduates.

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