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Mental Health Reform Movement Loses Steam

By Quinn D. Hatoff, Crimson Staff Writer

In an indication that the student-led movement to reform mental health resources may be losing steam, Harvard University Health Services postponed the release of mental health survey results after zero students showed up to either of its two public presentations in the last week.

“The goal will be to hold the event in the fall when a larger community conversation can be held,” Director of Harvard University Health Services Paul J. Barreira said Tuesday night in front of an empty Emerson lecture hall.

Invitations to both events were sent to Resident Deans, House email lists, and peer counseling groups, according to Barreira.

The cancellation of Tuesday night’s mental health-focused event comes just four days after UHS announced the rescheduling of a Friday afternoon presentation on alcohol and sexual health given that no student attended.

According to UC President Tara Raghuveer ’14, the Council plans to continue the undergraduate mental health discussion on its own by reviewing and discussing the survey results with Barreira.

“I do not believe that movement to reform mental health has lost energy,” Raghuveer wrote in an email. “Students are still confused about the intersection of College policies...and mental health.”

Despite the poor turnout, Barreira said UHS plans to make recent mental health survey results available online once the community has had a chance to discuss the results and ask questions in an open forum.

UHS’s decision to host Tuesday’s panel comes at the end of a semester in which Harvard’s mental health services have come under increased scrutiny.

The group that originally led that charge, the Coalition to Reform Mental Health Services at Harvard, is an activist group that aims to “bring together those on Harvard’s campus who support improving mental health response in the Harvard community,” according to the group’s Facebook description.

Formed in response to an anonymous Crimson op-ed that prompted more than 150 students and members of the Undergraduate Council to rally outside Massachusetts Hall, the Coalition quickly amassed over 300 members. In late February, the UC unanimously passed a bill pledging to listen to the Coalition’s concerns and provide it with “opportunities to engage with administrators.” Toward the middle of the semester, students and members of the UC said they felt undergraduates had finally produced a sustainable dialogue on the College’s handling of mental health cases.

Despite initial enthusiasm, however, no public activism efforts have occurred since February’s rally, and emails from The Crimson to Coalition organizers requesting information about recent activism efforts have gone unanswered.

—Staff writer Quinn D. Hatoff can be reached at quinnhatoff@college.harvard.edu. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnHatoff.

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