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New Initiative Brings Mental Health Resources to the Quad

A sign hangs over the door of an office in Pforzheimer House designated as a new shared space between the various peer counseling groups on campus. “Quad Talks” will be held Sunday through Thursday evenings and hosted by a different group every night in an effort to grant easier access to peer counseling groups to students housed in the Quad.
A sign hangs over the door of an office in Pforzheimer House designated as a new shared space between the various peer counseling groups on campus. “Quad Talks” will be held Sunday through Thursday evenings and hosted by a different group every night in an effort to grant easier access to peer counseling groups to students housed in the Quad.
By Menaka V. Narayanan, Crimson Staff Writer

QuadTalk, a new initiative aimed at expanding mental health resources to Harvard’s Radcliffe Quad, opened its doors Sunday night.

Five campus peer counseling groups jointly run the venture in the Jordans South basement of Pforzheimer House: Room 13, Eating Concerns Hotline and Outreach, Sexual Health and Relationship Counselors, Contact Peer Counseling, and RESPONSE Peer Counseling. The groups rotate responsibility for staffing QuadTalk, with a different service in the room each night from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.

A sign hangs over the door of an office in Pforzheimer House designated as a new shared space between the various peer counseling groups on campus. “Quad Talks” will be held Sunday through Thursday evenings and hosted by a different group every night in an effort to grant easier access to peer counseling groups to students housed in the Quad.
A sign hangs over the door of an office in Pforzheimer House designated as a new shared space between the various peer counseling groups on campus. “Quad Talks” will be held Sunday through Thursday evenings and hosted by a different group every night in an effort to grant easier access to peer counseling groups to students housed in the Quad. By Jessica M. Wang

Rachel H. Star ’17, co-director of Room 13, said she generated the idea for QuadTalk after realizing the trek to Harvard Yard—where many peer counseling services are located—could prevent upperclassmen from seeking mental health resources.

“We think there’s already so many barriers to accessing mental health, people are busy, people maybe haven’t gone before,” Star said. “Whatever those barriers might be, the shuttle shouldn’t be one of them, walking alone at night through Cambridge Common should not be one of them.”

Star said she worked with Associate Dean of Student Life David R. Friedrich and other College administrators and student-leaders to determine logistically how to implement QuadTalk.

"Extending the services of the peer counseling groups to the Quad is a wonderful initiative for the community," Friedrich wrote in an email.

According to Star, QuadTalk marks the first time the five main peer counseling groups on campus have worked in concert to address mental health issues.

“Right now, the groups communicate, but there isn’t a sort of joint entity of the groups that’s facing the student population,” Star said. “We thought it would be really cool to come together and sort of bring all these resources as a unified front.”

Students can often perceive established peer counseling resources as being freshman-centric, and QuadTalk would specifically expand mental health resources to upperclassmen, Star said.

Roughly a quarter of the College’s upperclassman population lives in the Quad, which is nearly a mile away from the Yard.

Ayodeji B. Ogunnaike, a tutor in Pforzheimer House, said he often refers students to peer counseling resources, and that a close location would make it easier for students to seek help.

“I think it’s less of a barrier to get up and go to the Jordans basement than it is to get up and come down to the Yard in the middle of the night,” Ogunnaike said. “I just think if you want to try to get help to people, it’s usually best to make it as easy possible for that to happen.”

Undergraduate Council President Shaiba Rather ’17, who is also a Room 13 counselor, said while QuadTalk was not a UC initiative, she did publicize the service in an introductory email to undergraduates co-signed by UC Vice President Daniel V. Banks ’17.

Counseling and Mental Health Services at Harvard University Health Services also worked in collaboration with the College to find a venue for QuadTalk, CAMHS Chief Barbara Lewis wrote in an email provided by UHS spokesperson Lindsey Baker.

—Staff writer Menaka V. Narayanan can be reached at menaka.narayanan@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @mnarayanan97.

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