Making Mental Health Services More Accessible

We applaud the QuadTalk initiative

This past Sunday, five of Harvard's peer counseling groups launched QuadTalk, an initiative aimed at bringing mental health resources to the Radcliffe Quadrangle. All five groups involved in the project—Room 13, Eating Concerns Hotline and Outreach (ECHO), Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors (SHARC), Contact Peer Counseling, and RESPONSE Peer Counseling—have main offices in the Yard, River Houses, or at University Health Services; QuadTalk aims to ensure that students living in the Quad have easy access to the same services as their peers. Through the new program, the five groups will rotate responsibility for staffing Jordans South basement of Pforzheimer House each night from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.

QuadTalk is an excellent initiative. It acknowledges the potential for substantial unmet need for these mental health services in the Quad, where distance from the main resources on campus could pose a significant obstacle for residents in need of them. Moreover, this initiative helps raise the visibility of mental health issues on campus and highlights Harvard’s commitment to providing support to its students.

We are especially impressed by the fact that this initiative was pioneered by Harvard undergraduates themselves. The peer counselors from these groups recognized the need for more resources in the Quad, and worked together efficiently with administrators to make QuadTalk a reality. We look forward to seeing how these groups will collaborate on this initiative and others in semesters to come.

Just as peer counseling services like those involved in QuadTalk are vital to student well-being, so too must professional mental health services be available and accessible to all students. Counseling and Mental Health Services at UHS—which provides students with clinicians who offer a range of services including individual counseling, group counseling, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and medication evaluation—helped secure space for the QuadTalk initiative, and plays a central role in ensuring that Harvard students can seek professional help when they need it.

In certain areas, however, UHS should take steps to ensure that its mental health services are more accessible for more students. In particular, past criticism has centered around a lack of diversity among Mental Health Services clinicians, which became a major issue during last semester's elections for the Undergraduate Council. Only 25 percent of Harvard Mental Health clinicians identify as people of color, and research shows that shared race or ethnicity between patients and clinicians breaks down barriers that often prevent people of color from seeking professional mental health services. While no easy solutions to this problem exist, UHS should strive to increase the diversity of its clinicians so that no student faces undue obstacles when they seek out mental health services.

Initiatives like QuadTalk are precisely the kind of project that Harvard should pursue as it seeks to make mental health services as accessible as possible for all its students. We applaud the students and administrators who have expanded peer counseling to the Quad, and hope to see further progress on this vital issue.

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