Student Mental Health at Yale

November 16, 2022

President Peter Salovey’s response to members of the Yale community writing to him about student mental health and the Washington Post article published on November 11, 2022:

Dear Yale Alumni and Friends,

I have heard from members of the Yale community expressing concerns about the November 11 Washington Post story regarding student mental health and Yale policies for student withdrawal and readmission. The Washington Post article does not reflect Yale’s efforts to foster student wellness. The article fails to acknowledge the support, processes, and policies in place or the positive outcomes associated with our work. To be clear, the health and well-being of Yale students are primary university priorities.

Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis and Director of Yale Mental Health and Counseling Dr. Paul Hoffman responded to the Washington Post story in a letter published on November 15. I also provide additional information below.

Over the last few years, I have seen a surge in demand for mental health services and support in public and private institutions in the United States. This demand was further exacerbated by the pandemic. Committed members of Yale’s faculty and staff have come together to address the mental health crisis facing young people in our community, and our ongoing work has yielded many improvements.

In response to this demand, we made a substantial change to Yale College’s reinstatement policy by dropping the requirement for students who have withdrawn to take two courses. We also simplified the process for students in other ways, including dropping an informational interview with the chair of the reinstatement committee, which students told us could be intimidating. In recent years, over 90 percent of students who were medically withdrawn are reinstated at their first request; over 99 percent on their second; and 100 percent by their third request.

We continue to assess our policies and seek effective ways to ease the process for students taking a medical withdrawal and being reinstated. A committee of Yale College student affairs professionals and mental health experts at Yale has been meeting since September 2022 to continue the review of our withdrawal and reinstatement policies. This group is poised to roll out policy changes in stages that will continue to support students.

In April 2021, we launched Yale College Community Care, or YC³. The response to YC3 has been incredibly positive. YC3 embeds mental health and wellness in the residential colleges and classroom buildings. It is focused on wrap-around support and meeting the needs of a diverse student population. Staff include licensed clinical psychologists and social workers as well as community wellness specialists who are focused on evidence-based skill building. Staff provide one-on-one, drop-in, and group counseling sessions for acute care and pre-crisis intervention as well as group programming to manage stress, promote self-care, and create practical strategies for well-being.

YC3’s emphasis is on quick, easy access to care. Students self-schedule with a provider of their choice, and currently wait no more than two days to see a YC3 team member. In addition, the YC³ team partners closely with The Good Life Center, a campus hub for wellness activities located in Yale Schwarzman Center. Since its launch, YC3 has served 1,863 students through 5,450 appointments. The team has also conducted 155 workshops, support groups, and events.

We also continue to increase resources to support students. Last academic year, Yale’s Mental Health and Counseling (MHC) hired thirteen new clinicians, including those recruited for YC3. MHC has a diverse staff in terms of identity as well as specialties. To provide better access and reduce barriers to care, a Mental Health and Counseling satellite office was opened last year on Whitney Avenue. A new site on Temple Street will be added this year. 

We are engaging in innovative solutions to address diverse student needs, including MHC’s hiring a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion as well as a care coordinator to help graduate and professional students connect with off-site clinicians through the Magellan network. MHC has also contracted with Protocol, an online counseling service to help address calls after business hours, thus allowing the staff to focus on their primary care provision. MHC provides treatment that is accessible to a large number of Yale students and at no cost to students. 

MHC provided treatment to over 5,000 students last year. Yale students utilized approximately 55,000 mental health visits last year including appointments at MHC, embedded counseling, and Magellan.

The professional clinical and wellness care our students receive is supplemented by the ongoing support of the residential college heads and deans, as well as many other Yale College staff members and student peer mentors such as the first-year counselors, peer liaisons, and communications and consent educators, all of whom work in front-line response and help students connect with additional resources as needed.

The residential college deans, in particular, provide holistic support to students who are struggling, arranging academic and other accommodations to help students maintain their academic progress whenever possible and to guide them through the process of a medical withdrawal if and when that becomes the best path. The deans continue to be available to support withdrawn students, offering continuing mentorship and academic guidance. For most students, though, the ongoing support of the deans, along with treatment from MHC, is sufficient to help them navigate mental health challenges while remaining enrolled. Even most students who are hospitalized end up being able to complete the semester successfully.

I found the Washington Post article deeply disturbing for the misinformation it contains about Yale and for the harm it can do to students by perpetuating the damaging narrative that it is more important to stay in college than to take time to heal. On a personal note, as a clinical psychologist and faculty member who has worked alongside mental health and student affairs colleagues at Yale for four decades, I am disappointed that the Post article misrepresents our efforts and unwavering commitment to supporting our students, whose well-being and success are our primary focus.

The need for student mental health and wellness support continues to increase, and Yale remains committed to responding to this need.

With best regards,

Peter Salovey
President and Chris Argyris Professor of Psychology
Yale University