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While Yale Pressures Students with Mental Health Issues to Withdraw, Adelphi Tries Support

By: Joseph D'Andrea

The college experience, in a broad sense, is made up of several factors: socializing with new peers, studying for more intensive exams, and for some, learning what it means to be more independent. Even though that last point is more so attributed to dorming students, commuters must learn to adapt to a day-to-day schedule that doesn’t follow the roughly six-hour-long high school layout that all students shared at that point in their education.

With college students being given heavier responsibilities—many of which are ones they have never had to face head-on—it is all the more important for universities to provide a setting that both makes students feel comfortable in their evolving lives and provides relief when they are in need. In light of a recently-covered trend at Yale University, in which they’ve pressured students struggling with mental health to withdraw and later reapply, it is important to highlight the ever-present necessity of mental health resources at colleges.

The case of Yale University is particularly significant because, as an Ivy League School, the expectations they present reflect an especially challenging, competitive educational environment. It’s fair to say that Yale’s students should not be surprised by the high-pressure setting, but nevertheless should not be scrutinized when they are mentally suffering as a result of such conditions. The November 11 Washington Post article “What if Yale Finds Out?” delves into detailed coverage of what some students at the university have had to endure.

Following the suicide of a student who “had withdrawn from Yale once before and feared that under Yale’s policies, a second readmission could be denied,” the university was put into a position that required them to “evaluate readmission policies.” Although Yale had made some advancements in hiring counselors over the past several years after the incident, current and former students outlined how there remains a lack of empathy, ultimately making the “counseling” negligibly effective.

“Some described never hearing back from Yale counselors after seeking help,” the Post’s article reads. “Others said they’ve learned to hide mental problems and suicidal thoughts to avoid triggering withdrawal policies that they believe are designed to protect Yale from lawsuits and damage to its reputation… Several students recounted being given 72 hours or less to leave campus once they withdrew.”

It should be noted that Yale is not alone in the poor accommodation given to students by some American colleges, but this especially pressing example by such a big-name institution should serve as a wakeup call to those ignoring students’ mental health struggles.

Adelphi University offers several services that ensure students that they should not have to feel concerned about pressure put on them by their college. Monica Pal, PhD, is a member of Adelphi’s faculty who focuses on mental health and is the new director for the Center for Psychological Services at the Derner School of Psychology.

Yale University has received criticism from students who have reported that their mental health has lacked proper attention from Yale’s services, and that they’ve been penalized, being pressured to withdraw. Photo from Yale University; photo by Michael Marsland

“For the past nine years, I have been a project director of Long Island Reach, a clinic for individuals with mental health and substance use issues,” she said. “Adelphi offers support from the start beginning with students’ academic advisors. It is also helpful for students to feel connected to others, so involvement in clubs and extracurricular activities can be helpful. It is important to make time for self-care and find balance. Spending time and connecting with loved ones can also help to ground students.”

Speaking on the recent spike in American student rates of depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, which has more than doubled in America, Pal said, “There are certainly more students coming forward with mental health issues as the stigma of mental illness is waning. and awareness about these issues are being brought to light. In general, the issues for college students range in severity. Although we are seeing more students seeking help for mental health issues, we also have more services than ever to help our students at Adelphi.”

Some of these services provided by Adelphi include the Student Counseling Center, which offers short-term therapy and medication management for students at no cost, and the Center for Psychological Services at Derner, “where our doctoral students in training provide longer-term individual and group therapy and psychodiagnostic testing, under the supervision of licensed psychologists.” Also available is the Institute for Parenting and the Postgraduate Center, which provides analytic treatment, couple’s therapy and family therapy.

“Each student has their own individual issues that require support and treatment is individualized to meet each student’s needs,” Pal continued. “Psychotherapy research demonstrates that the most important factors for success in treatment include the therapeutic alliance or relationship with the therapist, empathy and motivation in treatment. I would encourage students to seek out therapy if they are struggling and to be persistent and stick with it even if they feel like they do not want to go. I always tell my clients, ‘When you least want to come to therapy is usually when you most need to come.’”

With instances of colleges dismissing the full implication of students’ mental health, it is important to recognize that Adelphi is here to lend a helping hand.

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