Many graduate and professional students do not publicize the difficulties and challenges they face with the Yale community in the Yale Daily News. In a competitive environment where jobs are scarce and support from advisors is essential to professional success, you will rarely hear graduate and professional students expressing their concerns in public forums.
However, graduate and professional students often deal with crippling depression and anxiety, which is compounded by their isolated working environment and constant pressure. Graduate and professional students depend on the services of Yale Mental Health and Counseling, which are the only mental health resources available to students receiving health care from the University.
Approximately 50 percent of graduate and professional students will visit MH&C during their time at Yale. Each year, 25 percent of graduate and professional students seek care for mental health issues. Many more have reported wanting mental health treatment but not seeking assistance because of the long wait times before being assigned to a therapist and the difficulty of scheduling appointments.
Unfortunately, these services are often too little and available too late. Consistent student feedback to Graduate and Professional Student Senate representatives and survey data highlight the long wait times between intake and first appointment, rapid turnover in care providers and lack of long-term therapy options.
In a recent survey, 46 percent of graduate students who sought assistance from MH&C reported waiting more than one month before being assigned to a mental health care provider; half of those waited more than two months. Based on yearly surveys of graduate and professional students, we have seen a 25 percent increase in dissatisfaction with mental health services over the last two years.
It was with both interest and dismay that we learned about today’s announcement to changes in MH&C, which the University notably did not share with graduate and professional students. While we are excited to hear about changes to the system, we are startled by the exclusive focus on Yale College. Graduate and professional students have shared their concerns and proposed solutions to MH&C over the past several years. Graduate and professional students’ Mental Health & Counseling Advisory Committee has been meeting with MH&C throughout the year, recommending many of the changes that were announced in today’s email. The recommendations have included increasing access, hiring additional clinicians and developing statistics and benchmarks to assess improvement.
We are truly excited to read about the new features of MH&C, such as the role of Daniel Champagne, assistant manager of member services, as student advocate, the addition of new phone numbers for around-the-clock communication with clinicians and the streamlining of processes to switch treatment providers. However, we are dismayed that these changes have not been communicated to and currently appear to be unavailable to the graduate and professional student population. If the new services highlighted in today’s email are available to graduate and professional students, we are unaware, and it would seem at this point that we are excluded from these new resources. Additionally, we would appreciate the opportunity to engage in school-wide forums with Yale Health, akin to the one offered to members of Yale College next Wednesday.
We welcome the changes that the University is making to MH&C on behalf of Yale College students. We are hopeful that this indicates a greater willingness to engage with mental health issues on campus. We urge Yale to include graduate and professional students in these reforms. We need your help. Yale should not wait to implement changes to mental health services until it sees a news story of another student, either graduate or undergraduate, adversely affected due to insufficient options.
Lauren Tilton is a Ph.D. student in American Studies and the chair of the Graduate and Professional Student Senate Advocacy Committee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.