Friday, December 28, 2007

Mental Health at Cornell

Today's Wall Street Journal has a front page article about Cornell's efforts to improve the way they handle mental health problems among their students. Timothy Marchell, Cornell's associate director of health services and director of mental-health initiatives, has been looking for innovative approaches, such as enlisting dorm custodians to report warning signs, having no-appointment consulting hours by therapists, and putting together an "alert team" of administrators, counselors, and police that meets weekly to discuss students' problems. In doing so, Cornell has been moving into territory that many other colleges avoid for privacy concerns. For example, Cornell has been informing parents about concerns, utilizing a financial dependency exemption to student-privacy laws.

While I think that Cornell may be overstepping student privacy in an undesirable manner, I think that the article does a great job of raising the importance of mental health on college campuses - something that is certainly an issue here at Dartmouth. There has been a lot of concern among students recently about the availability of mental health counseling and resources. From what I hear, students are often given appointments weeks away, when they need assistance sooner. In the Student Assembly, last year's Student Life committee set improving mental health services as their top priority, and despite devoting considerable time and energy, made little progress. This year's Assembly has been continuing that work behind the scenes.

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