Students concerned about the mental health system at Yale had a chance to discuss the ins and outs of the current program Wednesday night.

A group of panelists addressed a small crowd on issues regarding “The State of Mental Health Resources at Yale: Goals, Challenges, Strategies for the Future” in Linsly-Chittenden Hall at a discussion sponsored by Mind Matters, an undergraduate group. Over the course of an hour, the panel responded to questions that had been submitted via e-mail before the event, many of which touched upon student concerns about the quality of mental health care available and the confidentiality of treatment on campus. Panelists repeatedly stressed that though Yalies should seek mental health assistance if necessary, the decision ultimately comes down to the student.

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The speakers included former Calhoun College Master William Sledge, a professor of psychiatry at the Yale Medical School; Carole Goldberg and Lisa Driscoll, both clinical psychologists at Yale University Health Services; Calhoun Dean Stephen Lassonde; and Branford College Dean Thomas McDow. Maggie O’Keefe ’07 and Kristine Dicolandrea ’07 offered student perspectives.

All of the speakers emphasized that students can only be helped if they seek out assistance in the first place. In order to create an environment that accommodates the mental health concerns of all students, they said, it is necessary that there are clear channels of communication between the students, deans, masters, and mental health assistants.

“The system works well because students care and talk to one another,” Sledge said.

McDow said that though UHS Mental Health Services is often viewed by students as the only call they need to make for help, this is not necessarily the case. Counseling is available through other resources including the chaplain’s office, residential college masters and deans, and freshmen counselors, in addition to the mental health liaisons assigned to each residential college. McDow said viewing Mental Health Services as the only available resource causes students to expect a level of assistance that is difficult to provide.

“Expectations cannot be met for immediate relief,” he said.

Concern about students’ right to privacy was a recurring theme in many of the questions directed at the panel. The panelists said parents are not informed about students’ requests for help, records kept by Mental Health Services are not a part of a student’s permanent medical record, and no one in the administration can ask for information from Mental Health Services if questions are raised about a student’s mental health.

Goldberg said confidentiality is “an ethical requirement and a legal requirement,” and if a student did not give consent for his or her mental health information to be released, any information on that case would be destroyed in a “timely fashion.”

Laura Chandhok ’08, one of the co-coordinators for Mind Matters, said these kinds of events are necessary in order to clear up aspects of Mental Health Services that may be unclear and to publicize the other sources of aid available on campus.

“[The goal] was to make the system [for mental health assistance] more transparent and clarify misconceptions,” she said.

Nicolas Abreu ’08 said the panel helped to show that the system works “for the students and not against them,” touching on issues that are “not talked about nearly enough.”

The panel was a part of this week’s Mental Health Awareness Week, which consists of a variety of talks and panels.