Radcliffe Quad on Harvard University campus in Fall.
Radcliffe Quad on Harvard University campus in Fall.

Universities Acknowledge a Mental Health Crisis. Why Is Action So Complicated?

At the same time as civil rights law demands that universities appropriately accommodate students with disabilities, gaps between laws and their implementation make the process of reform at universities painstaking.

Content warning: This article references a student who died by suicide.

It was only in 1957 that “Colleges Discover the Need for Mental Health,” as reads the title of the first chapter of a book, “Mental Health in College and University,” by the former director of Harvard’s health services Dana L. Farnsworth. He had a clear message for Harvard: “Our young men and women with good minds deserve something better on the part of those of us who plan their educational experiences than a ‘sink or swim’ attitude.”

67 years after Farnsworth’s book, the University’s relationship with the mental health of its students remains fraught as the presence of a mental health crisis at Harvard has become clear and undeniable to administrators, faculty, students, and alumni. In 2020, a report initiated by then-provost Alan M. Garber ’76 found that 31 percent of undergraduates thought they had depression, 30 percent thought they had an anxiety disorder, and 6 percent had seriously thought about taking their lives in the past year. Read more…

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