My name is Nikki Daurio and I’m currently a sophomore at Harvard University. Last year, I developed depression and suicidal ideation so I decided to seek help. I noticed several flaws within the Mental Health Services on campus and encountered several paradoxes in the public health system. Following that, I decided to dig deeper and see if my research agreed with my opinion.

Harvard University has made several attempts to help alleviate the problems that arise from mental health issues across campus; however, the policies the university currently have in place have unseen flaws that end up leaving students feeling helpless. For one, the attendance policy does not explicitly state that mental health problems are a legitimate excused absence. Secondly, the services provided for students in need at Harvard University Health Services (HUHS) do not accurately or efficiently cultivate a supportive atmosphere for those who are suffering. Policies need to change in order to give immediate care to students. This would involve a therapeutic phone consultation that would ultimately allow a student to take a mental health day off from class and serve to better their health through a conversation with a professional. A highly elite university like Harvard needs to enact these changes as soon as possible.

[1] Harvard University’s mission statement is to educate citizens; however, I believe that this is not enough. It is time to take action and not only educate the leaders of tomorrow, but make their environment at school a place that works with the students to better their wellbeing as individuals. Currently mental illness is widespread across the country at all universities, but it is especially prevalent on Harvard’s campus. It is natural on a college campus to find students stressed out and reeling under the pressures from academics, extracurricular activities, friends, and the necessity to manage time to sleep. Stress is a primary factor leading to mental health problems which, in turn, can lead to even more serious concerns. It can be a top cause for physical ailments including cardiovascular disease, asthma and many more (Landow 2006). The fact that a student’s poor mental health can also affect their physical health is a substantial issue that is quite worrisome. The combination of both has serious and detrimental problems that affect not only how a student is feeling, but also their performance in and out of the classroom. These include an increase in the probability of missing class, dropping out, alcoholism, and suicide (Landow 2006). These all exemplify the crucial need to offer students help, and to make their environment a better place so that these issues don’t ever arise. The university needs to actively change policies to better accommodate those in need. While a lot of students recover after suffering a short bout of extreme distress, there are some who end up being tormented by mental illnesses ranging from depression to schizophrenia. In particular, the environments at the Ivy Leagues can be purely overwhelming. Luckily, over time, school officials at these universities have recognized how distinct of a problem mental health is. They’ve instilled several programs to aid the student body as it reaches out for help (Khurana 2015).

[2] On a positive note, at Harvard, there are several mental health resources available to every student. Dean Khurana, amongst several other high officials at the college, recognizes the need to aid students and has been fighting the stigma of asking for help (Yang 2014). However, in the process of simply raising awareness and creating these programs, they’ve overlooked key details necessary to actually help with students’ mental debilities. These range from the lack of urgency for mental health appointments to the fact that mental health is not deemed as a legitimate excused absence on Harvard faculty’s policies of attendance. The only way to accomplish the university’s goal of cultivating bright minds is to keep those minds healthy. Unfortunately, a paradox is in play due to the fact that school officials tirelessly explain that the mental health of their students is their top priority, yet once it affects a pupil’s academic performance, it is almost deemed inexcusable. Harvard University is not solely responsible for providing an education for its student body; the academic institution must also fully address mental health as a Harvard community health issue and aid in the growth of its students as human beings as a whole. Current policies set on attendance and the urgency with which mental health issues on campus are addressed need to change and adapt to the mental health needs of the student body in order to accommodate them in times of need.

[3] Students have started speaking up about their struggles and these issues prove to still be extremely prevalent despite university efforts. While trying to deal with the unbelievably demanding workload at such a prestigious college, students suffering from mental disorders end up struggling to keep their heads afloat. In 2013, a schizophrenic student had to stay up all night trying to catch up on work that they had missed due to feeling sick. Despite the obvious problems of sleep deprivation that comes with those actions, sleep was the only way the student could escape the over-powering “screaming demons” in their mind (Anonymous 2013). When this student brought their problems to the HUHS seeking help, they were told to simply drink some tea and try to stop stressing out. The one form of refuge that Harvard was offering turned their backs on someone who was clearly suffering a disorder that was deteriorating their health. In 2014, a freshman dealt with the pains of attending a highly demanding university. She had been “crying for hours every day” and was at risk of doing something “dumb” (Klein 2015). She, like many students, found herself under extreme mental distress. Granted, these are extreme cases and don’t capture the whole situation, however, a great deal of people at Harvard are at various levels on the spectrum of poor mental health and an astounding 37% of them are dissatisfied with the mental health services provided by the school (Robbins 2014).

[4] These students have to go through difficult transitions since they are coming from being the best at what they do to being normal at a place where the top percentage of academic minds are centered. It’s natural for them to struggle when going to a university of this caliber, but I am completely disheartened by the fact that these young adults are driven to the point of feeling completely helpless. All of this is still happening despite the several programs, including the Student Mental Health Liaison, designed to combat these problems by constantly promoting self-care. Students at Harvard spend their whole lives building themselves up to ultimately go to one of the most amazing schools in the world. It’s tremendously unfortunate that once they reach this goal and finally enroll in the school of their dreams, they are sometimes met with ineffective and poorly designed support systems.

[5] Colleges need to help with the long-term health and development of their students; they cannot be seen as solely specific to an academic institution. This is especially true due to the fact that stress and mental health issues have proven to affect the academic capabilities of students. So, if Harvard is wanting to academically cultivate some of the best minds in the world, officials need to change their policies to also keep those minds mentally healthy. Helping now can actually make for better contributing human beings in the future.

[6] Indeed, it is true that Harvard has recognized the need to address mental health issues on campus. I have received 17 emails about mental health from the college in this year alone. However, the fight for a healthier student body should not stop with simple recognition and talking about mental health around campus. Currently, there are several resources available for students who are suffering from a broad range of disabilities that are tormenting their minds (Yang 2014). Leaders at the university realized that they needed to provide better care for their students once research and data came out stating that well over a quarter of students are suffering from mental illnesses (Alters 2015). Looking deeper than that statistic, it’s important to put a face to it to realize the alarming magnitude of the situation. Sadly, in a class size of 60, at least 15 of those students are under extreme distress. In addition to this, it’s not only the prevalence of mental health on campus that the school needs to worry about, but it’s also the effects that come with these types of ailments.

[7] Despite the incredible advancements that the university has made in creating mental health programs, college students are still suffering. Harvard students’ mental problems have not been cured. The university’s attempts at helping at various points in the system have fallen through. Granted, at an Ivy League school, stress is almost guaranteed and understandably can’t be prevented. However, the concerns that can be thwarted are when stress manifests itself in students’ minds to the point of being the causation of mental illness. Sadly, this build-up of stress leads to actual physical illness including “headaches, asthma, hypertension, ulcers, lower back pain, and other medical conditions” (Landow 2006:94). Some of these symptoms aren’t severe enough illnesses that students would normally go into HUHS for, but they are extremely detrimental when trying to keep up with the intensity at Harvard. Also, when left untreated, the stress and the way young adults cope with it can lead to even worse difficulties including anxiety, depression, and substance abuse (Landow 2006). These mental health problems not only affect the students while at school, but lead to lifelong obstacles. Specifically, the terror of suicidality is present on campus – an alarming average of one life taken per year. This shows the absolute severity of the problem that has found itself on Harvard’s campus.

[8] Nevertheless, the deans at the college think that they’ve addressed and tackled this community health issue. Even President Drew G. Faust said in 2015, “Keeping students physically and emotionally healthy is one of Harvard’s top priorities” (Klein 2015). Unfortunately, they have failed to realize that they can say a lot about wanting to help, but it takes a significant amount of effort in order to ensure that there is a substantial amount of action behind those promises. Especially since there seems to be a discrepancy once a student’s emotional health stands in the way of a student’s ability to go to class or participate in the college compared to when said student is suffering from physical health issues. There are a lot of flaws in the university’s system, thus it is necessary for the Harvard community health to combat these issues in certain policies.

[9] First of all, Harvard does its part in offering several mental health resources ranging from professionals at HUHS and the Bureau of Study Counsel, peers at places like Room 13, and residential supporters who live in close proximity to the students (Yang 2014). There are several kids who utilize these services; alas, not all of them are given the right amount of attention or the quickest access to care. Students feel the need to seek out for professional help when things are going particularly poorly for them mentally. The policy Harvard currently has in place for that is a scheduled phone consultation and then, based on this evaluation, the arrangement of an appointment at HUHS if needed (HUHS 2016). However, these kids need help immediately; it is the reason that they are calling. At that specific moment in time, they feel that the stresses of Harvard and life in general are too much and they need a professional outlet. One student believed that the phone call was actually “a barrier to receiving mental health treatment” (Klein 2015). An additionally horrifying fact to admit is that these troubled students have to possibly wait up to 48 hours for their phone consultation – which is just a brief evaluation and not a therapeutic session – and a third of students who are deemed as needing to meet with a counselor need to wait a little over a week to be seen, with an upsetting proportion of students even having to wait up to 15 business days later (Klein 2015). This gap in time between a student feeling helpless and health care officials providing help and treatment is far too large. Any student could either worsen or feel unsupported by their school and choose not to follow through with the necessary appointment. These problems even arise in urgent times. It’s difficult to see the emergency on-call therapist if the student has no physical markings that it