Advocacy groups should not be only ones publicizing resources

To the Editor:

Kudos to the News (“Mental health deserves more publicity,” 3/2) and to Mind Matters for insisting that Yale do more to raise awareness of and support for mental health on campus. Given that one out of five Yale students will use mental health and counseling services at some point during their four years, this is not an issue that we can ignore. Instead, we must all work together to find ways to make mental health more accessible to students.

While Yale University Health Services provides a wide range of mental health services to students, information about and access to these services remain sparse. Just like the empty bags of condoms in many college entryways, information on mental health services is supposed to be available but often isn’t. Moreover, the information that is available often fails to address important student concerns, such as Yale’s policies about forced medical leave for students with severe mental illness. Coupled with the long and cold walk to the (medicalized) University Health Services building, it’s easy to understand why so many students delay getting mental hygiene services.

These barriers to care are understandable but not acceptable, and so we must challenge University Health Services to think of more innovative ways to reach students. Just as UHS goes to college dining halls to offer flu shots in the fall, why can’t it set up information booths during stressful times of the year? We receive regular safety bulletins from the police, so why not from UHS? The bottom line is that the University can and should do more.

As the administration improves its outreach, we students also have an important role to play in decreasing stigma and changing the culture around mental hygiene. It’s normal to be stressed, but it’s not OK to ignore it. If you think that someone you know might be suffering from a mental illness, don’t be afraid to let them know about support here at Yale.

In the end, mental health is part of public health, and so we as a community need to look beyond the status quo to think of innovative ways to promote mental hygiene here at Yale.

Robert Nelb ’08

March 4

The writer is a staff columnist for the News.