April 5, 2010

GPSA Passes Resolution to Aid Grad Mental Health

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Last night, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed Resolution 14 –– which will seek to provide graduate and professional students with better access to mental health information –– with a nearly unanimous vote, after comments on the subject from President David Skorton and Vice President for Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy.

The first of changes to come with the resolution is a revision of GPSA bylaws. Though, currently, the bylaws only allow for one graduate student representative to the University’s Council on Mental Health and Welfare, it will be amended to include three representatives. Also included was a request that the Graduate School Student Life website be revised to include proactive mental healthcare content by working with members of the ad-hoc mental health committee, which was created shortly after the string of student suicides. The resolution also calls for the websites of the Graduate School, the Graduate Student Life Office, Gannett and EARS to include links to further on-campus resources.Before the resolution was passed, Skorton and Murphy voiced their thoughts on mental healthcare on campus and stressed the importance of further outreach.Skorton acknowledged the tragedies and offered reasons why certain measures taken were necessary, most visibly, the fences lining the bridges.“It is difficult to look at those fences. There isn’t a Cornellian out there who likes to see them. That said, they were necessary steps in preventing more impulsive acts. It is a short-term way of dealing with the current circumstances,” Skorton said.Murphy echoed Skorton’s sentiments.“We are dealing with seven bridges in a tight area with a high population. There is no question of what we had to do. The risk was just too great,” Murphy said.Skorton and Murphy also said they would work to make more help available to graduate and professional students in the form of focus groups.“We are currently talking with the Rand Corporation about long term solutions to the issues faced by mental health. This can come with focus groups and other resources for students to reach out and talk too,” Murphy said.Murphy also noted the pressures that can come with being a full-time student at Cornell.“Being a grad student can be a very lonely and isolated experience. Keep an eye out for each other,” Murphy said.Most students in attendance said they were glad to get feedback from Skorton and Murphy on mental health, yet some expressed concern that this will halt progress in other areas.“As a student, mental health is vital to my studies and I am glad the University is taking measures to ensure our safety. However, I don’t want it to overshadow other important issues like Reimagining Cornell and strategic planning,” said Xuan Zhang grad. “That said, suicide prevention is a broader issue than just preventative steps. How can we treat it long term?”Skorton seemed to ask himself the same question and acknowledged that the University’s current plans were a work in progress.“The two most promising things in suicide prevention are the availability of mental health services and making it harder to act on impulse. These are areas we know we need to improve on and are in the process of doing,” Skorton said.

Original Author: Erika Hooker