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Tufts Public Health

A Focus on Mental Health on Campus

“We can’t control everything that life throws at us, so we need to help students develop skills that will build resiliency and enable them to manage stress in healthy ways,” said Michelle Bowdler. Photo: Shutterstock
Thursday, October 10, 2019

A first-year undergraduate, living away from home for the first time, struggles to manage a previously diagnosed bipolar disorder. Following the euthanasia of a feline patient, a veterinary student just starting clinical service becomes increasingly despondent. An M.D./Ph.D. candidate whose spouse is hospitalized develops severe anxiety as licensing exams loom.

On any given day, students across Tufts experience a range of mental health concerns. And like their peers across America, they’re seeking treatment and support services in record numbers. The Counseling and Mental Health Service serving the Medford/Somerville and Boston SMFA campuses has seen a significant increase in student usage and now sees more than 25 percent of the students on those campuses each year. Demand for urgent appointments and the number of students with significant, ongoing mental health needs are both rising.

Although the reasons for the trend aren’t clear—and may reflect in part a welcome reduction in stigma surrounding mental illness—Tufts’s Mental Health Task Force has been tackling the challenge. Launched by President Anthony P. Monaco in December 2016, it has been actively examining the issue and possible responses. 

On October 10—World Mental Health Day—the task force released its report [PDF], which concludes that while significant efforts to meet student needs are in place, Tufts must implement a broader, more strategic suite of mental health and wellness services. Many of the report’s recommendations have already been implemented.

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