More than 40% of Harvard students report that they “might have a mental health issue” according to a Harvard University Health Services survey.
Every other spring, students are surveyed on health and wellness (including behavioral health) with additional surveys for incoming first-years and outgoing graduates.
However, getting students to talk about their behavioral health struggles outside of an anonymous survey is traditionally not an easy task.
Some students fear they will be placed on leave if they’re honest about behavioral health struggles, while others believe that they should be able to take care of themselves without treatment or support.
Others experience different cultural norms around help-seeking and behavioral health that make them less likely to use counseling services.
In 2019, the Harvard Undergraduate Council began working on increasing access to behavioral health resources, with Council President Sruthi Palaniappan observing “a lot of students feel as if they’re struggling, but don’t quite know whether they should contact a mental health professional.”
Their proposal to partner with MindWise to bring anonymous mental health and substance use screenings to the campus aligned with recommendations received from counseling center directors at Yale and Wellesley College.
MindWise Screening Program
When the Undergraduate Council launched the Screening program, they saw an unprecedented 1,892 screenings taken in the first month.
Because MindWise provides a full marketing toolkit and a range of informational resources, the program also complements Harvard’s existing behavioral health support by providing easy access to online tools and assessments.
"The program bridges a gap for students seeking mental health resources by providing immediate feedback and encouraging students to seek help."
Sruthi Palaniappan, Harvard Undergraduate Council President
Harvard’s proctors and residence deans, who live in community with students, are also guiding students to the platform for quick assessments rather than referring them straightaway to the counseling center or urgent care.
For Dr. Barbara Lewis, MD, Chief of Counseling and Mental Health Services at Harvard, it’s important to “lower the barrier to students, who for whatever reason don’t want to come here.” Nationally 75% of behavioral health disorders develop by age 24, and college students are reporting higher levels of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation every year according to the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment – these are crucial years to connect individuals with support and treatment.
Overall, the MindWise Screening Program has resulted in the following outcomes: