Campus & Community

Prize to reward innovative ideas on mental health

3 min read

The University Student Health Coordinating Board has established a $1,500 prize for students who come up with the most innovative and practical ideas about how to encourage people suffering from depression to seek treatment.

The Vincent Prize follows on several University initiatives to combat depression and mental illness among students. Last fall, the University hosted a series of workshops and discussions, called “Caring for the Harvard Community,” to examine the issue from many different perspectives. In September, the University published a brochure for faculty members designed to help them identify students who need assistance and refer them to appropriate resources.

Charles Ducey, director of the Bureau of Study Counsel and member of the University Student Health Coordinating Board, said the awards are intended to both draw attention to the problem and to seek input from students on the topic of depression.

“The hope is to raise awareness, both of the widespread nature of mental illness and its treatability,” Ducey said. “We want to tap into great untapped resources. Students know what students best respond to.”

As many as three winners will be announced on April 23. A prize dinner will be held in May where the winners will discuss their ideas with members of the Student Health Coordinating Board. Entries are due April 2. Students from Harvard College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools are all eligible.

Sarah Henrickson, a Harvard senior and co-director of the Community Health Initiative, which helped organize “Caring for the Harvard Community,” said student input is important on the subject of depression. She hopes the award will draw suggestions from students with wide backgrounds.

“Hopefully, they’ll be from people with completely fresh perspectives,” Henrickson said.

The contest seeks specific proposals that will encourage students to seek treatment for depression or manic depression, outline innovative ways to deal with the stigma surrounding depression, and articulate practical and imaginative educational campaigns about the illness.

The prize is named after famed artist Vincent Van Gogh and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, both of whom suffered from depressive illnesses.

Ducey said the guidelines for entries were purposely left broad to encourage many different ideas. Entries are to be submitted in the form of a five-page essay, but the essay can be accompanied by Web site materials, advertising campaigns, videos, and film.

“We want to cast the net wide to catch the best proposals,” Ducey said.

Though the contest is seeking practical proposals, Ducey said decisions on whether they’ll be implemented will wait until after the contest is concluded.

More information can be found on the provost’s Web site at