When is an illness not an illness? According to “Yale Undergraduate Regulations: 2001-2002,” a student suffering from mental illness does not fall under the “illness and accident” category and therefore does not deserve the same treatment as one suffering from a broken leg, mono or diabetes.
In order to withdraw from the University with a complaint of a “traditional” illness (mono, for example), the sick student must only have her “physical condition certified by a licensed physician”; she is then eligible to be paid back 100 percent of her tuition.
But if her illness is one with a social stigma attached to it (such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, etc.), she can get back only 60 percent of her tuition, and even then not unless she is “confined in a hospital for seven consecutive days during the term.”
There are so many problems with this “mental hygiene” policy, it’s difficult to know where to begin. How about the basic unfairness of the assumption that a diabetic student with a note from his doctor is more trustworthy than a depressed student with a note from an equally educated and trained physician?
Or the fact that it is nearly impossible to stay for seven days in any hospital anymore, no matter what your condition is?
Yale’s withdrawal policy is an indication of a broader belief that mental illness is somehow less real, less medical, less serious than other kinds of sickness.
This misconception extends beyond the withdrawal policy into the University Health Services, into readmission policies, into the wording of official University documents. This is discrimination, a kind of latent prejudice that flies under the radar of otherwise conscientious students and administrators.
We need to address this issue, bring it out into public discussion, so that mental illness can be seen for what it really is: illness.
Alexandra Epstein is a sophomore in Morse College.