At a Zoom forum on Tuesday night, student leaders from Yale College Council and the Yale Student Mental Health Association sat down with leaders from Elis for Rachael to discuss their mental health advocacy efforts.
Tim Tai photography editor
In the middle of a trial Regarding Yale’s mental health policies, students and alumni have consistently advocated for change, discussing the possibility of a new peer liaison system and mental health training during a virtual forum on Tuesday evening.
The forum, organized by the Yale College Council, the Yale Student Mental Health Association and alumni advocacy group Elis for Rachael, aimed to provide a space for students to share their thoughts on mental health care at Yale. Following sweeping changes to Yale’s medical leave policiesthe discussion was designed as an open forum to express opinions on these changes, as well as Yale’s current mental health care resources and campus mental health culture.
YCC Senator Kyle Shepherd ’25, who hosted the event, said he thought the event was a success and confirmed the importance of the current efforts he is involved in, including other similar meetings and the creation of a peer liaison program for mental health care.
“There are a lot of students like me who were willing to talk about their experiences and what they thought was important to change,” Shepherd told The News.
Alicia Floyd ’05, leader of Elis for Rachael, said the purpose of the event was primarily “open-ended” – to get student input on mental health policies and concerns. Floyd added that Elis for Rachael would like to learn more about students in the future, and said they were developing a survey that will be released to students beginning April 15 at YSMHA’s annual Mind over Matter fair.
Students share their concerns in a virtual forum
While the conversation began with a discussion of medical leave policies, it shifted to focus on concerns about both mental health and the Yale Board and Yale College Community Care. Also known as YC3, Yale College Community Care is a program managed by the Office of the Dean of Yale College in conjunction with the YMHC which provides shorter term therapists and wellness specialists and has received mixed student feedback.
At Tuesday’s event, students specifically raised concerns about the lack of publicity for the YC3 program, which is not listed on the website for YMHC. While YSMHA Co-Chair Peyton Meyer ’24 said he had a positive experience with YC3, he added that he was shocked at how many students hadn’t heard of the program. .
“It seems like it would be a no-brainer that [YC3] should be on [the YMHC website] because especially for students who experience long wait times, YC3 is a really good way to get care faster,” Meyer told the News.
In response to concerns about publicity, Yale College Dean Pericles Lewis said he would look into the matter, adding that there may be other ways to raise awareness of the program.
The main concerns raised with the YMHC were the wait times to get an appointment with a therapist, which since a long time a source of concern for students.
Paul Hoffman, director of the YMHC, wrote to the News that wait times for care have fallen significantly this year due to a “significant” increase in staff to meet increased service needs.
While Hoffman pointed out that urgent and acute needs are assigned much faster, he wrote that the busiest time in the fall had a maximum wait time of eight days for admission.
“Our goal is for students to schedule admission within a week of first contact with us and the upper limit of time to be matched with a therapist at two weeks,” Hoffman wrote to the News. “For most of this year, it took less than a week to schedule an intake appointment, with the upper limit of time to be matched with a therapist being two to three weeks.”
Hoffman said he expects the size of YMHC staff to increase again next year, adding that wait times to book appointments with YC3 have remained under a week.
Floyd raised the point that other similar establishments using telehealth appointments for therapy to offload the work of therapists on campus, a model she hopes Yale will follow.
In response to that concern, Hoffman wrote to the News that the YMHC decided not to use telehealth for a variety of factors, including variable quality of services, access and coordination issues, and privacy concerns.
“Ultimately, I believe it is important to invest our resources in building the necessary systems within Yale to meet the needs of our students and I am confident that we are on the right path,” wrote Hoffman at the News.
YCC, YSMHA and Elis for Rachael will establish a peer liaison program
The discussion also focused on recent efforts to introduce a mental health peer liaison group, a joint initiative between YCC, YSMHA and Elis for Rachael.
The purpose of these liaisons, Floyd told the News, will be to bring together representatives from different facets of campus to provide information and resources to students seeking mental health care.
“[The peer liasons] come as representatives of their group just in a very low-key and informal way… to keep us in touch with the pulse of mental health culture on campus,” Floyd told the News.
Shepherd explained that the Peer Liaison Program is not intended for students to provide care – rather, Peer Liaisons will act as resource people to help students navigate support systems while also serving as resource for mental health organizations. Liaisons, he said, would meet three times per semester with students from different organizations to provide knowledge about mental health resources.
Students interested in becoming a Mental Health Liaison can complete an interest form here.
YSMHA will hold its Mind over Matter event on April 15.