The Student Mental Health Task Force, convened in December 2003 by Provost Steven E. Hyman and Dean of Harvard College Benedict Gross, released its final report today (June 17) urging a broad range of recommendations aimed at improving mental health education, resources, and services across the University.
Several of the task force’s primary recommendations – creating a seamless system of mental health and counseling services for students, hiring a new leader to oversee expanded mental health services at the University, and increasing the number of mental health providers – were presented and accepted in an interim report released in February 2004. In May, Paul Barreira, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chair of the task force, was named the new director of University Counseling, Academic Support, and Mental Health Services at Harvard University.
In its final report, the task force also recommended enhancing services, resources, and support to residential staff serving undergraduates and student peer support groups; improving mental health and academic support for graduate students and international students; and appointing an advisory group for mental health.
“I commend the Student Mental Health Task Force for so thoughtfully considering all the ways the University can better support its students’ mental health,” said Hyman. “With some of the major structural changes already implemented and with Dr. Barreira’s wise leadership, we are poised to better meet the mental health challenges our community faces.”
“I am pleased that the task force suggested utilizing one of Harvard College’s richest resources – the community of residential life in our Freshman Yard dorms and House system – to enhance mental health care for Harvard College students,” said Gross. “These new recommendations will help us provide our students with a safe and supportive environment in which they can thrive.”
“I have been impressed and inspired by the concern and passion of the entire Harvard community concerning the mental health well-being of our students,” said Barreira. “I am eager to move forward with the recommendations posed by the task force.”
The final report of the Student Mental Health Task Force made nine recommendations, the first four of which were presented in the interim report in February.
- Create a seamless system of mental health and counseling services for students. Both of the main portals into mental health care at the University – the Bureau of Study Counsel and University Health Services Mental Health Service – are now integrated and report to the new director of University Counseling, Academic Support, and Mental Health Services.
- Hire a new leader for expanded mental health services at the University. Barreira assumes the duties as director of University Counseling, Academic Support, and Mental Health Services July 1.
- Increase the number of mental health service providers. A preliminary survey of student intake at the Bureau was conducted and is now being analyzed. Further manpower assessment is planned.
- Ensure that all mental health facilities are student-friendly. Consultations are underway to explore bringing the bureau building up to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) code for a mental health clinic. An assessment of more suitable space options for UHS, aimed at enhancing student privacy and confidentiality, is beginning.
- Improve availability of information and resources in the Freshman Yard and the residential houses.
- Enhance the support, supervision, and mentoring of student peer support groups.
- Improve mental health and academic support for graduate students.
- Improve mental health and academic support for international students.
- Appoint an advisory group on mental health.The Student Mental Health Task Force 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.