Campus & Community

Ideas for treatment of depression win recognition for five

3 min read

Five students from Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences have been named winners of the newly established Vincent Prize for outstanding suggestions on how to encourage depressed people to seek treatment.

The prize’s $1,500 award will go to each of the three groups of winners – two individual students and one group proposal by three students. Winners are doctoral students Susan Andrea Clancy (GSAS 1) and Gabriel Kaplan (GSAS 4), who each submitted individual proposals, and Shanthi Naidu ’02, Duncan Smith-Rohrberg ’02, and doctoral student Pearl Chiu (GSAS 1).

In addition to the prize-winners, the University Student Health Coordinating Board also named seven honorable mentions, encompassing proposals from students from GSAS, Harvard College, the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Business School and the Divinity School.

The award was established in March by the University Student Health Coordinating Board as a way to foster the treatment of depression and mental disturbances in students.

One of this year’s winners proposed a “direct to consumer” campaign, similar to those used by industry, incorporating printed advertisements containing contact numbers. Another prize was awarded for an anti-stigma campaign incorporating education, one-on-one contact with trained tutors and student-initiated “wellness groups.” The third award was given for a proposed interactive Internet-based program to provide information and create a forum to answer questions. The Web site would include links to make appointments, stories from other students, self-diagnostic tools, and a chat room.

Charles Ducey, director of the Bureau of Study Counsel and member of the University Student Health Coordinating Board, said the winning proposals cover a variety of different strategies to reach out to people. That is something the judges didn’t seek, but which could prove valuable in implementing the ideas.

“Each of the winning proposals effectively covered different areas,” Ducey said. “We weren’t looking in particular for any difference [in evaluating the proposals]; we were looking at their intellectual content, practical ability to implement the proposal, and the likelihood the proposed ideas would work effectively.”

Ducey said he was impressed by how well thought out the proposals were and by how the winners also thought through implementation of their ideas. He expected that the University Student Health Coordinating Board would implement the winners’ ideas.

The award is the latest in a series of steps taken by the University in recent months to identify and treat depression among students. Last fall, the University hosted a series of workshops and discussions, called “Caring for the Harvard Community” to examine the issue of depression from many different perspectives. In September 2000, the University published a brochure for faculty members designed to help them identify students who need assistance and refer them to appropriate resources.

The prizes, named after famed artist Vincent van Gogh and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, both of whom suffered from depressive illness, will be awarded at a dinner on Thursday, May 3.

The contest sought specific proposals that would encourage students to look for 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 disorder.