Mental health issues affect many students here at Princeton, but due to the personal nature of these concerns, many students are unaware of the struggles their fellow students experience and may be uncomfortable seeking help via the available resources. Counseling and Psychological Services and the student-run Mental Health Initiative work together to deal with mental health concerns on campus. CPS, part of University Health Services, provides the actual medical care needed. MHI, a standing committee within USG,works to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and promote constructive dialogue around mental health. Together, they have fosteredimprovements in reducing the stigma around mental health concerns and raising student awareness about resources available to them. Building on these successes, the Board urges a further increase in focused programming, an expanded outreach system, especially in high-stress times such as midterms week, Dean’s Date,and Bicker, and increased publicity of the more specialized care options offered by CPS. These continued reforms will help ensure that students facing these issues are aware of treatment options and feel able to take advantage of them.
The Board commends both of these organizations for recent improvements they have made. For example, CPS’s new online appointment system gives students more options and makes it easier to schedule appointments. The MHI has continued to spread awareness through the creation of Mental Health Weekend, which was held from Oct. 13 to Oct. 15, to complement the existing Mental Health Week held in the spring semester, as this Board recommended last fall. The Board particularly commends recent efforts to destigmatize mental health on campus through poster and picture campaigns, revealing how widespread mental health is as an issue.
Continued improvements can be made, however, to expand resources during periods when students feel more stressed. During exams, reading period, and Bicker, we recommend that CPS increase the availability of appointments and counselors as well as increase outreach. We recognize that this wouldrequire more funding but feel that this is an important need that the University and CPS should look into. Students will be more likely to seek the help they need if it is easier to make an appointment and if non-urgent appointments are more readily available without long wait times. Additionally, a strategic push of events focusing specifically on academic stress or social pressure around the time of Bicker, for example, could raise awareness of these issues and help students consider seeking help in the first place. We understand the MHI hosts events around the time of spring Bicker, but we encourage it to look into other opportunities around thesis due-dates or exams. Targeted and relevant events would help demonstrate to busy students that counseling may be worth their time and might help them address the problems they face.
The MHI has done an excellent job reducing the stigma around general mental health concerns on campus and promoting CPS counseling appointments. We recommend it take this the next step by regularly publicizing specific mental health issues on topics such as eating disorders or relationship problems in order to reach out to more students on campus. CPS offers a number of specialized treatment options related to alcohol or drug dependence, eating disorders, student-athlete concerns, and other issues, in addition to a full calendar of workshops on these topics that are open to the campus community. However, these programming options are not as well advertised beyond CPS’s website or the occasional email to residential college listservs, which could lead to them not being as well used as they could be.
The Board sees a role for both the MHI and Peer Health Advisers in addressing this and raising awareness of these more specialized options. We recognize that many specific issues addressed by this programming were promoted last year by the MHI through initiatives such as the Me Too Monologues. However, regular and themed campaigns more visible on their website or through monthly emails would greatly increase the reach of the MHI. Just like Peer Academic Advisers frequently email their advisees with information about upcoming McGraw workshops, we encourage Peer Health Advisers to collate and share information about these specialized treatment options and workshops once a month. For students struggling with particular challenges, many of which may have even greater stigma attached to them than academic or social stress, seeing an MHI campaign or email from their PHA sharing that CPS has specific resources to help them would serve as further encouragement to seek treatment.
Given that much of students’ interaction with mental health programs and projects will come online, the MHI should seek to convey more information via social media and their website. The site is out of date and thus does not do as effective a job as it could of publicizing initiatives or upcoming events. The MHI has a Facebook page it used very actively from its creation on Nov. 10, 2015 through Mar. 18, 2016. Since then there have been only two posts: on Aug. 22 and Oct. 12. The Board encourages MHI to post with a similar frequency as it did last year with regular posts that both update the student body on events and convey information about different mental health disorders and the related treatment options available at Princeton. This would serve to provide valuable information to many students on a more regular basis.
Though much good work is being done at Princeton to ensure access to mental health resources, additional specialized treatment programs have the potential to help even more students. Targeting specific issues at high-stress times of the school year, raising awareness of CPS’s plentiful resources for addressing specific concerns like eating disorders, and expanding programs that better educate and inform the community at large are valuable next steps in continuing to provide students with the help that they need.
TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor, and the Editor-in-Chief.