Roundtable: Are there serious deficiencies with Harvard's mental health services?
This is the fifth instalment in a series of online-only Roundtables. This new content form from the Crimson Editorial Board seeks to present a diverse array of high-quality student opinion on thought-provoking issues.
If you would like to submit an opinion for this week's Roundtable topic "Does Harvard place enough value on academics?" please e-mail your 200-300 word opinion to firstname.lastname@example.org before Wednesday, March 6th at 11pm.
A Shortage of Listening
Experiences with mental health difficulties are inherently, intensely personal. To make sweeping claims about mental health is very dangerous. There is a danger of isolating people on all sides of the discussion—those who work hard to provide care to our community can feel attacked by blanket criticism, and those who endure a very real struggle with mental health challenges can feel invalidated and uncared for.
As a Student Mental Health Liaison, the privilege I have had of working with students and administrators has left me knowing quite confidently that there are by no means “serious” deficiencies with Harvard’s mental health services. I make such a strong claim not to undermine the voices of those who disagree with me, but because it is a reality that whenever we need it, and to whatever degree we need it, we have support available to us. There are 24-hour emergency services, all manner of counseling options, psychiatric treatments, caring tutors and proctors, peer counselors, peer educators and much more. It is essential that our discussion about mental health not leave members of our community reluctant to seek help or to suffer alone.
Last week’s events showed us, however, that a lot of students feel like mental health services need improvement. Those feelings and opinions are, of course, valid. They are founded on real experiences and real concerns. There must, then, be some deficiencies—to me, those deficiencies are primarily in the listening and understanding in this dialogue. Again, my experience tells me there is certainly a will to listen and understand. The “liaison” in Student Mental Health Liaisons exists to do this. Somewhere, voices have not been heard and concerns have not been understood. Students and the administration alike should listen actively and take each other’s concerns seriously. Only by understanding both sides can we come to understand the realities of the mental health experience at Harvard.
Rishab Mehan ’14 is a social studies concentrator in Eliot House. He is a Student Mental Health Liaison and a former co-director of Room13.
Mental Health: Awareness, Community, and Change
Are there serious deficiencies with Harvard's mental health services? Absolutely. Anyone who has sought help knows about the agonizing delays. In frustration, many look outside the Harvard system for treatment and help, and even then they face weeks-long waiting lists. These delays put lives at risk, and the University must make changes. But while we push for change, we, the students, must find ways to help ourselves.
Mental health awareness is one of the worst problems at the world’s best university. Except when a tragedy occurs, mental health is never discussed in a positive manner. These conversations are not easy, but the administration seems paralyzed by the difficulties involved with dispelling myths, providing access to support and treatment, and eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health issues.