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Offer To Help Those In Need

Letter to the Editors

By Benedict H. Gross

To the editors:

The series of articles on mental health at Harvard College has raised a number of important and complicated issues. Many of these are under discussion by a task force appointed by Provost Hyman and myself and chaired by Dr. Paul Barreira of McLean Hospital. I look forward to broad discussion of improvements in education about and treatment of mental health issues at Harvard.

The Crimson’s articles have underscored a point that I thought worth emphasizing to the entire community: Students experiencing extreme emotional distress are often, in part as a consequence of their distress, the least likely people to seek help for themselves. Yet they may also be very open to accepting help when it is offered by others. With this in mind, I want to urge faculty, staff, and students to work together as a community to help people in need gain access to the many resources that are available.

The residential staff in the Houses and the Yard are key figures in this effort, of course. I want to acknowledge the important work that tutors and proctors do every day with students who have mental health concerns. But all of us can play a role in helping students. If a student indicates distress, I hope you will urge them to go to the mental health service at UHS. You could offer to walk them there or to call on their behalf as a means of offering support. Every student also should know that one can always ask a proctor, tutor, or dean for help in these situations. If we work together, we will be able to help more students, more effectively. In the end, this can mean a healthier community, which is surely a goal we all share.


Jan. 22, 2004

The writer is dean of Harvard College.

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