Nearly one month after students and University administrators clashed at a mental health open forum, another meeting was held to address issues specific to graduate students.
Over 60 graduate students gathered in Levinson Auditorium at the Yale Law School Tuesday evening for a meeting before administrators at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Yale Health. Graduate School Dean Lynn Cooley was joined by Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin, Mental Health and Counseling Director Lorraine Siggins, MH&C Associate Director Howard Blue and Chief of Student Health and Athletic Medicine Andrew Gotlin. During the 90-minute event, students voiced concerns with Yale MH&C’s appointment procedures, raised the possibility for collaboration between MH&C and student-staffed mental healthcare providers and asked whether Yale’s mental health resources adequately serve graduate students.
At one point during the discussion, Anne Schiff GRD ’18 asked if Yale feels that it has a different obligation to graduate students, who use Yale Health as their primary healthcare provider, compared to undergraduates, many of whom remain on their parents’ plans. Administrators responded that all Yale Health clinicians are trained to deal with the needs of graduate students.
“In clinical care, in treatment of people for whatever kind of clinical condition they have we, as all healthcare providers, use criteria of medical necessity,” Genecin said.
Still, students expressed frustration with the time it takes to obtain mental health counseling through Yale’s MH&C office, with some criticizing the 12-session limit that they believed was in place. Administrators said this program was merely an effort to emphasize the short-term nature of mental health treatment at Yale, and that care was allocated based on each individual student’s needs.
While students also criticized this short-term nature of mental health care at Yale, a long-term program run through the School of Medicine was mentioned during the meeting. Run by Yale psychiatry students, the program treats roughly 60 patients at any given time over several years.
But Siggins said she did not wish to oversell the program, as its limited size would lead to it having to turn away many students if interest increases.
“I don’t like advertising things to people that you can’t deliver,” she said.
Chris McGowan GRD ’19 said it has become increasingly difficult to find counseling spots within a reasonable timeframe.
But Genecin responded that the limited number of staff members provide constraints to what MH&C can offer.
“There is no way to accommodate all of the demand without having some limits in place,” Genecin said. “We can’t fix the waiting time without fixing the staffing level.”
Genecin went on to say that the length of time it takes to recruit mental health professionals, as well as budgetary concerns, were the two primary challenges that MH&C faces in their plans to increase staff. The addition of two new staff members this summer at MH&C was cited as an example of University-led progress to increase the number of available clinicians.
Hannah Raila GRD ’18, who works in the Psychology Department, suggested at the meeting that students could seek help at the Yale Center for Anxiety and Mood Disorders. The center, which offers low-cost mental health services to all Yale-affiliated people, is staffed by graduate students and is looking for more patients, said Raila. Several students said they thought this kind of collaboration was a good idea.
Two thousand five hundred students use MH&C’s services each year.