University President Drew G. Faust addressed questions on mental health in a wide ranging conversation with students at Kirkland House Wednesday evening.“Students come to the University sometimes having had mental health issues that we want to be able to address,” Faust said. “This is a very stressful place, and we want to make sure that those issues are supported."
Faust described mental health as a concern that is “very much on [the] minds” of University administrators at the moment.
Trevor N. Coyle ’14, who asked Faust two mental health questions during the event, said Harvard faces two particular student mental health problems: students avoid seeking help because of stigma associated with counseling, and Harvard University Health Services faces a backlog of students who request help.
"There should be no stigma about reaching out for health,” Faust said in response to Coyle’s question.
Though Faust said she was unaware of the backlog issue at HUHS, she said Professor Paul J. Barreira—the newly-named director of HUHS—is especially passionate about addressing the mental health needs of students. Barreira previously served as the director of Behavioral Health and Academic Counseling at HUHS, a position that oversees, among other things, Harvard’s Student Mental Health Services.
After the event, student attendees said that mental health issues have been a topic of frequent discussion on Harvard’s campus, especially in the wake of recent suicides.
“I think the amount of interest and the questions that were raised show how much students care and that there need to be more spaces to address those question on campus,” Roland Yang ’14, one of the event’s two moderators, said of mental health issues.
While mental health was the most prominent topic during the conversation, student questions ranged from the paucity of female professors at Harvard to Faust’s commitment to the creation of a campus center in the Holyoke Center.
The conversation took a light-hearted turn at the end, when Yang took a moment to ask Faust to name her ideal Kirkland House Secret Santa gift, a task or an object that Kirkland residents receive from one another. “My dream—no more outdoor Harvard celebrations in the rain,” Faust said.