Over the past few decades, emphasis on mental health has increased around the world as more people are recognizing the necessity of maintaining a healthy mind in addition to a healthy body. In the past, mental health was heavily stigmatized; people were discouraged from talking about their problems, and some people simply turned a blind eye to the issues that their peers were dealing with. Counseling and Mental Health Services (CMHS) at Tufts, a service which provides students with a counselor to talk with, has taken huge strides in improving access to services and bringing awareness to mental health on campus. Between 2015 and 2018, the number of sessions at CMHS from new students increased by nearly 60%, and it is clear that these services are sorely needed. CMHS should be praised for the work it is doing to ensure that Tufts students have a place where they can seek guidance for their mental health questions, but it is clear that these services can go much further in ensuring that all students feel supported on campus.
One of the major changes to CMHS within the past few years was the 2018 implementation of Telehealth services through which students can chat online with a counselor regarding their concerns. Patrick Collins, Tufts’ executive director of public relations, told the Daily that Telehealth’s purpose is to offer more flexibility to students in terms of appointment schedules, and that it is offered without a co-payment for students with university insurance. Since CMHS provides only short-term care — afterwards referring students to local off-campus professionals — this step taken by CMHS is substantial. Providing students with another option, especially one that is more affordable and flexible, brings into the circle students who initially may have been dissuaded from seeking long-term care by the costs of in-person sessions. As a university that champions diversity, ensuring that students from various socioeconomic backgrounds have options for getting the help they need is an absolute necessity.
While CMHS has made significant strides towards better helping the Tufts community with their mental health, there is more that Tufts can do to help CMHS with this goal. For instance, Drexel University has a kiosk at its University Recreation Center that asks students to answer a few questions including how they’ve been feeling; at the end of the survey it provides students with resources they can contact to discuss the issues highlighted through their responses. Tufts could also benefit from placing several kiosks around campus in easy-to-access locations. Students who may not have previously considered talking about mental health may learn that they would benefit from a visit to CMHS.
While Tufts can help create campus-wide change, there is plenty that students can do to support their peers and help themselves maintain their mental health. Students can focus on getting a good night’s sleep, listening when friends discuss their struggles and actively seeking to destigmatize mental health in everyday conversation. In his email to the Daily, Collins emphasized that the community should question “the value of more being better,” especially if taking on another major, another club or another class leads to compounding stress as time goes on. We all must support one another here, and Tufts must continue to invest in CMHS to support the student body and demonstrate a commitment to mental wellbeing.