February 26th, 2013 | University

Harvard students rally for mental health reform

More than 150 Harvard students rallied for mental health reform last Friday afternoon, chanting “Harvard, we are mad” and urging administrators to take a closer look at the university’s mental health services.

The protesters gathered just one day after The Harvard Crimson — the campus newspaper — published an anonymous op-ed by a student with schizophrenia, who described his experiences with Harvard’s mental health services and perceived flaws in the system.

Friday’s rally quickly drew the attention of administrators, including Assistant Dean for Student Life Emelyn A. dela Peña, who approached the group and invited them to continue their discussion indoors. The offer was declined. Although dela Peña told The Crimson that Harvard administrators are willing to provide all necessary services, the anonymous op-ed claimed that the administration is “hostile” toward mental health issues.

Standing in a circle, protestors echoed the arguments put forth by the op-ed: Students who seek treatment for a mental health issue should have immediate access to a therapist, and antipsychotic or antidepressant medications should be free for students on financial aid. Most importantly, the protestors argued that students should not have to choose between an education and mental sanity.

The protest has extended beyond campus boundaries. Students launched the “Coalition to Reform Mental Health Services at Harvard” on Friday evening after the rally and began posting to Facebook, Twitter and other social media websites. In response, Undergraduate Health Services representative Lindsey Baker released a statement assuring that mental health is a “top priority” for the administration.

The administration has yet to announce changes to mental health policy, but pressure continues to build as the coalition amasses new members. As of Saturday afternoon, 110 students had joined.