Harvard 'Caring' Week Begins

Returning to his roots as a psychiatrist, Provost Steven E. Hyman today kicks off this year’s effort by the University to improve students’ mental health.

The University-wide “Caring for the Harvard Community” program includes workshops, speakers and other events aimed at improving student use of mental health resources. This year is the second annual installment of the program, which originally began in October 2000.

Hyman touted the week’s events in a letter he sent to all undergraduates earlier this month.

“The various events [this week],” he wrote, “emphasize the importance of personal connections, de-stigmatizing the act of requesting and getting help, and providing information about support services at Harvard.”

According to Hyman, the complexities of dealing with Harvard’s rigorous environment have lead to an increasingly vigilant effort to improve overall student health.

“I want to make sure that Harvard students are aware of the support that there is for them in times of difficulty,” Hyman said in explaining the goal of this week, “I want to make sure that students who are having difficulties do not suffer in silence or feel that it is somehow a sign of weakness to seek help when they need it.”

The impetus for the “Caring in the Community” project originally came from a December 1999 report highly critical of the inadequacy in mental health services available to Harvard students. That report was issued by a special committee established by former Provost Harvey V. Fineberg ’67.

The report led Fineberg to create the Student Health Coordinating Board in January 2000, which helped plan many of this week’s activities.

One of the cornerstones of the program are the nine themed undergraduate workshops in Loker Commons and the Houses, that will be led by members of University Health Services and the Bureau of Study Council.

The workshops, with titles like “Hooking Up and Hanging Out at Harvard,” “Success 101: Healthy and Happy at Harvard and Beyond” and “When It’s More Than Just A Bad Day: Recognizing Stress in Yourself and Others,” were designed by student volunteers.

There will be similar workshops for staff and for students at six of Harvard’s graduate schools.

A complete listing of the week’s events is available at www.provost.harvard.edu/shcb/caring/.

“I like the idea of bringing mental health service to the students and giving it a more friendly face,” said Jennifer M. Gloeckner ’04, who will help lead one of the sessions on Thursday. “A lot of people don’t know what resources are available to them.”

This year’s activities will be highlighted Thursday with the key-note address, “Staying Connected When Life Is Challenging,” by Dr. Edward Hallolwell, the author of books on attention deficit disorder, control anxiety and general mental health.

The week’s programming also includes several invitation-only panel discussions and an open forum on eating disorders held at the Graduate School of Education on Feb. 25.