There Is No Mental Health Care Shortage at Harvard | Opinion

The belief that there is not enough mental health care at Harvard has pervaded most…

There Is No Mental Health Care Shortage at Harvard | Opinion

The belief that there is not enough mental health care at Harvard has pervaded most of the campus’s collective consciousness. Op-ed after op-ed has alleged that Counseling and Mental Health Services is not sufficient. Often, students suggest that more therapists are what we need to deliver us from the looming crisis.

These frequent calls for more resources, while understandable, are not going to solve the mental health crisis on campus. More resources are certainly beneficial, but there is not truly a shortage of mental health support at Harvard. The shortage is only a perception.

Peer counseling groups constantly advertise their services with fliers and emails. The CAMHS Cares hotline offers 24/7 phone access to a licensed therapist. For recurring care, a Mather House tutor offers professional wellness counseling to the River East Houses — a service which, though excellent, still needs to send emails offering El Jefe’s Taqueria gift cards in order to attract the attention of students.

Despite their obvious availability, these resources seem to be nowhere near capacity. In my own experience running a peer counseling group, there’s much more demand to become a peer counselor than to seek peer counseling.

Now, it might be argued that these services, though certainly therapeutic, do not constitute a recurring treatment of psychotherapy. After all, isn’t there a shortage of professional therapists at CAMHS? Aren’t wait times still weeks long?

Not necessarily. Though the number of CAMHS’ in-house therapists and the wait to meet with one is still non-ideal, Harvard University Health Services has been working to build infrastructure to make up the difference.

For an example, take CAMHS’ TimelyMD partnership, which allows students to easily access therapists through the platform TimelyCare — they just might not be directly employed by CAMHS. TimelyMD is a Texas-based company aiming to provide telehealth services by licensed medical professionals to college students nationwide. Using TimelyCare, every enrolled Harvard student has access to 12 virtual therapy sessions with an independent, licensed clinical therapist per academic year, free of cost. Twelve sessions is a relatively standard amount of therapy, enough to treat most college students’ mental health concerns. Furthermore, wait times for these sessions are only about two days.

With its massive staff of therapists, TimelyCare easily has the capacity to provide therapy to every Harvard student. The TimelyMD company currently provides care to over 1.5 million students nationwide.

And whether it’s professional psychotherapy or a more novel type of care, for a student struggling with mental illness, any one of the aforementioned programs could significantly improve psychological wellbeing. We should remember not to undervalue the lay therapist or the age-old network of communal support and care.

So, why aren’t students using TimelyCare, or any other practices from the vast array of underutilized resources at this school?

One possibility is that students aren’t aware that a surplus of mental health resources exist. The long wait times for CAMHS are well documented, and it’s reasonable that a student might feel that a long wait time is not worth the bother, or that their problems don’t warrant using ostensibly strained resources.

I would argue, however, that there are enough resources. If you think that you might even slightly benefit from any of these, you should use them.

Beyond this, I believe that there is another factor at play: namely, a culture that sees a trade off between self-care and the pursuit of our goals. As much as we know that it would be healthier to do less and put more emphasis on our health, it’s incredibly difficult to do that at a school whose entire reputation is predicated on being the best.

The mental health crisis at Harvard is not a crisis of a lack of resources, but rather a crisis of culture: the inevitable collision between our drive for ceaseless achievement and the painful fact that we are mere mortals.

Despite the difficulty of self-care here, however, we remain free to take better care of ourselves. Now, more than ever, we have the resources to do so — if only we reach out and take advantage of them.

There Is No Mental Health Care Shortage at Harvard | Opinion

Suhaas M. Bhat ’23-’24 is a double concentrator in Social Studies and Physics in Mather House. His column, “Demystifying Therapy,” runs on alternate Wednesdays.