Campus | March 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

It’s Not Just Harvard

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A failure to deal with mental health problems is far from a uniquely Harvard problem. The national scrutiny and high expectations placed upon Harvard students may increase stress and make these problems worse, but in every institution of higher learning in America, mental health is a serious issue. Suicides on state college campuses don’t get much press, but they’re more common than most would imagine. The broader point here is that I don’t believe Harvard is any worse at addressing these issues than other schools are, the problem is far more systematic than that.

The feeling of isolation that students feel when placed in an alien setting is universal across campuses. Isolated from family, childhood friends, religious groups, etc. many students fail to replicate the kinds of nonjudgmental communities that would allow them to talk openly about mental health and encourage them to seek help when necessary. Colleges can’t make people good friends, force people to join religious groups, or make them call mom about their problems, but they can do more to provide opportunities for students to form communities. Systems like the “entryway” are a good framework to start from, but everyday life is sometimes too busy for even close neighbors to become mentally and emotionally close. I am not a psychologist by training so I cannot pretend to come up with a realistic way to help students form communities myself, but that is something that colleges across the country need to try to do.

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