February 25, 2014

EDITORIAL: Calling for a Mental Health Partnership

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Following a string of recent student deaths at the University of Pennsylvania, mental health has once again been catapulted to the forefront of the news at college campuses. These tragedies have highlighted the continued need for mental health programs and services to maintain student wellbeing across the country. Cornell’s increased focus on mental health programs and services in the last five years has been met with great success. We call on the Ivy League universities, including Cornell, to exchange ideas on how to improve and expand mental health resources available to students.

Since 2010, when three Cornell students committed suicide, our University has been committed to expanding mental health services. With the goal of providing students with a variety of ways to seek help, Gannett has implemented new programs, such as online counseling, to complement existing resources like Counseling and Psychological Services and the Empathy, Assistance and Referral Service. Cornell has also been committed to fostering collaboration between students, faculty and staff through the Executive Committee on Campus Health and Safety, which is tasked with deciding on the “best practices” for mental health issues at the University. The programs Cornell has adopted are a solid start to combating mental health issues on the Hill. If all eight Ivies join together to battle these problems, the collaboration could lead to stronger and more expansive mental health services across the League. We imagine that formalizing a conversation on mental health between the Ivy League campuses could provide a forum for the exchange of ideas among the schools to help prevent future losses.

We encourage the universities in the Ivy League to provide students with a variety of mental health resources including student-to-student counseling, faculty and student committees and professional counseling. In an editorial last month, The Brown Daily Herald criticized its university’s practices. The Herald’s editors argued a peer counseling program would benefit those students who may be uncomfortable with the idea of professional counseling. Last week, The Daily Pennsylvanian called for the University of Pennsylvania to diversify its new Task Force on Student Psychological Health and Welfare by including students, as well as faculty, in the conversation about mental health support on Penn’s campus. We agree with our counterparts at Penn and Brown that peer participation and input are critical to addressing the mental health problems college students currently face. We must be proactive, offering a diverse set of support programs — created with students, for students — before tragedies occur.

An Ivy League coalition would serve to advance this goal. While all of the institutions in the Ivy League have made strides to improve mental health practices on their campuses, each university still has the potential for continuous growth. We call on all eight Ivy League institutions to band together and draw inspiration from one another, evaluating old and new mental health programs to determine what methods work and which should be changed or expanded to best serve students. Through such a partnership, we can strive to prevent tragedies at all of our institutions.