Campus & Community

Student Mental Health Task Force releases interim report

3 min read

Recommends seamless administrative structure for mental health care and counseling

The Student Mental Health Task Force, convened in December 2003 by Harvard University Provost Steven Hyman and Dean of Harvard College Benedict Gross, has released an interim report that recommends the administrative integration of the Bureau of Study Counsel (BSC) and University Health Services (UHS) Mental Health Service. The recommendations – which include creating a seamless administrative structure for mental health care, counseling for students, and hiring a mental health leader to oversee all aspects of mental health services at the University – are aimed at improving the University’s ability to support students who are challenged by mental health problems.

“The overall health of our students is extremely important, and we do all that we can to support their physical and mental health. We always strive to have an environment that is safe and supportive. The aim of this task force is to explore ways to provide even better mental health care for our students,” said Gross.

“Dean Gross and I welcome and accept the task force’s interim recommendations and thank them for their diligent work thus far,” said Hyman. “I believe that these steps, once taken, will significantly strengthen mental health services for our student community.”

The task force recommends that in the interim, the bureau no longer report to the dean of Harvard College but rather to UHS, as does the Mental Health Service. In the long run, both the bureau and Mental Health Service will report to the mental health leader.

“The value of Harvard’s multiportal entry for students into mental health services is unquestioned,” said task force Chair Paul Barreira, associate professor of psychiatry at McLean Hospital. “By integrating the services under one administrative umbrella, we aim to simplify students’ access to the full range of mental health services by creating a seamless and comprehensive system. Students will be assured of receiving the most appropriate set of services to address their needs, regardless of where they enter into care.”

While it is not scheduled to release its complete report until April, the task force’s interim report made four recommendations that can be implemented in advance of the full report. They are:

  • Create a seamless system of mental health and counseling services for students;
  • Hire a new leader for expanded mental health services at the University; the leader should oversee services delivered at both the BSC and UHS, as well as mental health services provided to the graduate schools and the entire University community;
  • Increase number of clinicians providing mental health services to meet the growing demand for mental health care; and
  • Ensure that all mental health facilities are student-friendly, with an eye toward comfort and privacy.The Student Mental Health Task Force has met regularly since its inception in December. Its members are Barreira; Georgene Herschbach, associate dean, Harvard College; Elizabeth Nathans, dean of freshmen; Jennifer Leaning, professor of international health, Harvard School of Public Health, and chair, Student Health Coordinating Board; Lorraine Siggins, psychiatrist-in-chief, Yale University Health Services, Department of Mental Hygiene, and chair, Harvard University Health Services Visiting Committee; Suzanne Renna, associate director, Bureau of Study Counsel; Chris Coley, chief of medicine, Harvard University Health Services; John O’Keefe, assistant dean for undergraduate education and secretary, Administrative Board; Jim O’Rourke, mental health clinician, Harvard University Health Services; Ryan Williams, director of Student Financial Services; Sarah Henrickson, student, Harvard Medical School; and three undergraduates, Elizabeth Quinn ’04, Caitlin Stork ’04, and Rohit Chopra ’04.