In a Monday afternoon email to the undergraduate community, Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin outlined initiatives to improve dialogue between students and Mental Health & Counseling administrators.
In the message, Genecin wrote that residential colleges will host “listening sessions” for students to give feedback to Yale Health administrators about how mental health services can be improved. Genecin also announced the creation of a MH&C student advisory committee that will relay undergraduate concerns to Yale Health. Finally, the email stated that Yale Health will revamp its MH&C website to make resources more accessible. Genecin wrote that the changes, all of which are all slated to go into effect this spring, come in response to a September report from the Yale College Council about the state of mental health treatment at Yale and to a series of op-eds published in the News.
“[These changes] are a lot about communication and social media,” Genecin said in a Monday afternoon interview. “There’s a big communication gap, and we need a lot of help with that from our students.”
The YCC report recommended centralizing all information about mental health resources, improving public discussion to reduce stigma, and improving student leadership training to equip team captains and club leaders with mental health know-how.
According to Reuben Hendler ’14, one of the authors of the YCC report, the initiatives proposed Monday are a natural progression both from the report’s recommendations and student meetings with Yale Health administrators. Echoing Genecin’s statements, Hendler said that one of the advisory committee’s main goals is improving communication between students and Yale Health administrators.
”There was a lot of information about mental health and counseling that we thought would be helpful for students to be able to access simply and easily,” Hendler said.
To improve communication between students and MH&C, Genecin said Yale Health will hold meetings with undergraduates at residential colleges between April 4 and April 24. Students can sign up online for one of four sessions, each of which is capped at 25 students.
The student advisory committee will be composed of the authors of the Yale College Council report — Hendler, John Gerlach ’14 and Mira Vale ’13 — and the undergraduate leaders of the Coalition for Mental Health & Wellbeing at Yale. According to Genecin, the committee will help MH&C better understand student concern about mental health services. The group will also help MH&C decide how best to structure resources — whether a certain program should be available at Yale Health or through an affiliated program such as Walden Peer Counseling.
“We’re continuing a conversation that started with the YCC report by adding students’ voices that haven’t been added before,” Gerlach said.
In an effort to improve accessibility to mental health services, MH&C will soon release a video giving an overview of available resources, and the main mental health website will be revamped to make those resources more accessible.
While the YCC report recommended that MH&C hire additional therapists, Genecin said the challenges MH&C encounter are more complicated than staffing.
“We don’t think the waiting time [before intake] is too excessive,” Genecin said. “We think that students don’t come in with a good set of expectations based on what we’re providing.”
Still, according to YCC President Danny Avraham ’15, who was in discussion with Genecin and other Yale administrators last year leading up to the release of the report, staffing issues were addressed in conversation, and the administration is still considering ways to deal with those concerns.
Despite the campus’s increased focus on mental health, of six students interviewed Monday evening only one had read the email from Genecin, while another had skimmed it.
Dara Huggins ’17 said she does not doubt the intentions of the administration, but she is concerned about whether they will follow through with promised initiatives. She added that the Yale Health administration should keep students up to date about what they have and have not accomplished, so the student body can know whether mental health issues are actually being addressed.
According to a survey in the YCC mental health report, roughly 39 percent of Yale undergraduates visit Mental Health & Counseling during their time at Yale.