At a Tuesday night Zoom forum, student leaders from the Yale College Council and the Yale Student Mental Health Association gathered with leaders of Elis for Rachael to discuss their mental health advocacy efforts.
Tim Tai Photography Editor
In the midst of a lawsuit regarding Yale’s mental health policies, students and alumni have not stopped advocating for change, discussing the possibility of a new peer liaison system and mental health training at a virtual forum on Tuesday night.
The forum, hosted 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 policies, the 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 moderated the event, said he thought the event was successful and confirmed the importance of current efforts he is involved in, including other similar meetings and the establishment of a peer liaison program for mental health care.
“There are a lot of students like me who were willing to be vocal about their experiences and what they thought was important to be changed,” Shepherd told the News.
Alicia Floyd ’05, a leader of Elis for Rachael, said the event’s intended purpose was mostly “open-ended” — to get student feedback on mental health policies and concerns. Floyd added that Elis for Rachael would love to hear more from students in the future, and said they are developing a survey which will be disseminated to students starting April 15 at YSMHA’s annual Mind over Matter fair.
Students share concerns at virtual forum
While the conversation began with a discussion of medical leave policies, it shifted to focus on concerns with both Yale Mental Health and Counseling and Yale College Community Care. Also known as YC3, Yale College Community Care is a program run through the Yale College Dean’s Office in conjunction with YMHC which provides therapist and wellness specialists on a more short-term basis and has received mixed feedback from students.
At Tuesday’s event, students specifically raised concerns about a lack of publicity of the YC3 program, which is not listed on the website for YMHC. While YSMHA co-president Peyton Meyer ’24 said he has had a positive experience with YC3, he added that he was shocked by how many students have not 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 if they are experiencing long wait times, YC3 is a really good way to get care faster,” Meyer told the News.
In response to these concerns regarding publicity, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis said he would look into the issue, adding that there may be more ways to make people aware of the program.
The central concerns raised regarding YMHC were the wait times for getting an appointment with a therapist, which has long been a source of student concern.
Paul Hoffman, director of YMHC, wrote to the News that the wait times for care have decreased significantly this year due to a “sizable” increase in staff to meet increased need for services.
While Hoffman stressed 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 intake.
“Our goal is to have students schedule an intake within one week of initial contact with us and the upper limit of time to be matched to a therapist at two weeks,” Hoffman wrote to the News. “For the better part of this year, it has taken less than a week to schedule an intake appointment, with the upper limit of the time to be matched to a therapist at two to three weeks.”
Hoffman said that he expects the size of the staff of YMHC to increase again next year, adding that wait times to schedule appointments with YC3 have remained within a week.
Floyd raised the point that other similar institutions employ telehealth appointments for therapy in order to offload the work of the on-campus therapists, a model she hopes Yale will follow.
In response to this concern, Hoffman wrote to the News that YMHC has decided against using telehealth for a variety of factors including variable quality of services, access and coordination issues and privacy concerns.
“Ultimately, I feel it is important to invest our resources in building the necessary systems within Yale to meet our students’ needs and I’m confident we are on the right path,” Hoffman wrote to the News.
YCC, YSMHA and Elis for Rachael to establish peer liaison program
The discussion also focused on recent efforts to introduce a group of mental health peer liaisons, a joint initiative between YCC, YSMHA and Elis for Rachael.
The goal 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, 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 for students to provide care — peer liaisons will instead act as point people to help students navigate support systems while also serving as a resource for mental health organizations. The liaisons, he said, would meet three times a semester with students in different organizations to provide them with knowledge about mental health resources.
Students who are interested in becoming a mental health peer liaison can fill out an interest form here.
YSMHA will host their Mind over Matter Event on April 15.