Just one day after Director of Yale Health Paul Genecin announced five new initiatives to promote mental health on campus, the Yale administration unveiled the Wellness Project, designed to address broader issues of well-being and self-care.
While the Yale community has, in recent months, focused on the quality of clinical services at Mental Health and Counseling, administrators wanted to expand the conversation to include the quality of student well-being on campus, such as how students manage stress before they ever require professional care, said University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, whose office began working on the initiative over the summer.
In addition to the Wellness Project — an umbrella term for the committee of students, faculty and staff who will work on new and existing programs concerning student well-being — Goff-Crews’ office also launched a comprehensive wellness website on Thursday. This site compiles all of the University’s administrative and student-run resources related to well-being — clinical or otherwise — in one place for the first time.
“It originally started off as a mental health website, but a lot of students recommended that we might move to focus on wellness as a broader category, which includes mental health and other options,” Goff-Crews said.
She also highlighted the recent updates to the MH&C website, which Genecin announced in an email Wednesday. In response to those updates, her office has tried to make a website that curates information for students rather than rehashes information available elsewhere.
The website is the product of many months of student feedback. In April, Goff-Crews and other members of her office hosted two open forums to showcase a preliminary version of the website and to solicit student suggestions for improvement. Roughly 50 students attended those forums.
Graduate and professional students were actively involved in the feedback process, and they praised the new website for making clear what resources are available to them. Alicia Steinmetz GRD ’19, who sat on the MH&C University-Wide Committee, said graduate students often are unsure whether or not they have access to the resources that are advertised to undergraduates.
“There are programs that we can take part in, but because they are not explicitly graduate student programs, we assume they are not for us,” she said, adding that the new website addresses this issue.
Specifically, the website allows students to filter the resources available to the whole Yale community according to a range of criteria, including school affiliation, program type — for example, a yoga session — or location.
The website is intended for students, but there is also a tab along the top of the homepage that links faculty, staff and families of Yale students to information about how to support those who are dealing with mental health issues.
Steinmetz said this provision is especially welcome among the graduate population because students are allowed access to fewer resources related to family and well-being than are faculty members.
One of the Wellness Project’s first initiatives will be to offer up to $1,000 in funding to undergraduate, graduate and professional student groups that want to design projects in any of the University’s six stated areas of well-being: emotional, physical, social, spiritual, intellectual or academic.
Undergraduates interviewed expressed their excitement for both the website and the larger wellness project. Joseph Cornett ’17, who attended one of the open forums last spring, said he was impressed by how open and responsive the website’s designers were to student feedback.
Though the website was not fully accessible over the summer, students were able to receive a link to the live website on request and offer suggestions on how it should be improved in time for the fall 2015 launch.
Sreeja Kodali ’18, a member of the campus mental health organization Mind Matters, said she had not heard of the website prior to its first announcement in Genecin’s email, but that she was eager to see the University focus on wellness in addition to mental health.
“Something I’m interested in is campus culture changes, which may not directly affect mental health specifically but can definitely promote mental health and wellness,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to getting involved in [the project], because it seems like it could do a lot of good for the student body’s overall wellness.”