Psychiatric Services May See Increased Number of Students

The number of students using psychiatric services this year may rise substantially because of diminished student activism, Dr. Preston K. Munter, chief of psychiatry at the University Health Services (UHS), said Tuesday.

"When there were riots in the Yard, students were acting; they did not internalize as much," Munter said. "It's my guess now that the numbers are rising again to the level of years before the era of student activism."

In the period from July to October, UHS's ten staff psychiatrists scheduled 1991 visits in comparison to 1853 in the comparable time period one year ago.

Five students, two of them freshmen, have withdrawn so far this year to seek institutionalization outside Stillman Infirmary. A significant number of these students had had pervious psychiatric counseling, Munter said.

Anxiety and Depression


Anxiety and depression are cited as the two major complaints of students seeking psychiatric help. Stress reactions, adolescent reactions, and identity diffusion are also listed as common causes of psychiatric difficulties at Harvard.

Major mental illnesses are rare here, though UHS does hospitalize from 16 to 36 students per year in institutions outside the University.

"We don't knowingly take on people for long-term therapy except in rare circumstances. The average therapy lasts five and a half sessions," Munter said.

Munter said that in most cases students' difficulties are not related to academic problems. "Problems could be related to trouble at home, or a broken love affair, but rarely to the University," Munter said. "Bureaucracy may make us mad, but it won't make us sick."

Munter reported, however, that students frequently visit psychiatrists during peak pressure periods--before exams, during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, and from early March to the end of the school year.

Statistically, more Harvard juniors used psychiatric services last year than any other class. In the same time period, Radcliffe seniors topped their sister classes in the class distribution records at UHS. During both years, freshmen were least likely to utilize psychiatric facilities of UHS.

Munter believes, however, that these statistics are of no significance. "They are totally capricious and we never have been able to figure them out," Munter said.

Over the past few years, the University psychiatric services have offered group therapy sessions to interested students. Freshman groups wee formed last year to explore the transition between high school and college.

The Bureau of Study Council now conducts those groups, but UHS continues to maintain therapy groups for interested undergraduates