On addressing mental health

It’s encouraging to see that student struggles and concerns about mental health on campus are becoming more visible. Last week’s editorial, “A campus of compassion: Addressing mental health concerns in the classroom,” represented a promising step in that direction but missed the mark.

The editorial suggests that, as a first step, the Dean’s Office should send out an informative all-campus email outlining all mental health resources available to students. We fully agree that an informative email is necessary. However, the editorial portrays the mental health situation on campus as more intractable than it is and fails to recognize the recent work and collaboration by several student groups to improve course syllabi addenda. With regard to mental health language in syllabi – we wholeheartedly agree that professors should address mental illness directly as they would sickness, concussions or other visible health issues. We are in agreement that the inclusion of a statement on mental health in syllabi would encourage a more open dialogue about mental health between professors and students. The Mental Health Committee and the Gargoyle Society have been working to correct this issue. Our efforts have Dean Sandstrom’s support, and we are currently preparing a College Council resolution in support of the issue to be voted on in an upcoming meeting. We were pleased with this progress and collaboration and were disappointed that this was not acknowledged in the article.

Perhaps most importantly, the editorial does not give due credit to those professors, administrators and staff who are already demonstrating a strong commitment to make ours “a campus of compassion.” Multiple workshops and panels on Claiming Williams Day were devoted to mental health on campus, including “Mental Health At Williams,” “Williams, Disability and Me: The Morality of Structural Change” and “Quitting at Williams.” “Mental Health At Williams” alone had Dean Sandstrom, Director of Psychological Counseling Services Wendy Adam and multiple other professors and administrators in attendance. 

We believe that concerted effort between student groups is the best way to affect change to foster a healthy, compassionate campus and should be highlighted in the Record whenever possible.

– Julia Randall ’19, on behalf of the Mental Health Committee

  • Augustine25

    Unfortunately, the atheist, pro-marijuana, leftist policies of Williams College are probably creating more mental illness than they are fixing. In the long-run, it takes more than a caring therapist to get well.

    • EphAlumnus

      I do think it is important to actually keep a grasp on the facts and current academic (and scientific) literature. Concerning Williams specifically, the college does not pronounce itself as atheist by any means (secular learning is not the same as promotion of atheism) and, in fact, makes religious resources available through the various chaplains, societies, etc. and their involvement in some of the official ceremonies (including Convocation and Commencement). In addition, school policy is very clearly against marijuana and condemns its use, as well as sending Security to catch anyone who does use it on campus.

      Regarding academic and scientific literature, then, and the association you made to mental illness, here are a few other things. There have, in fact, been empirical papers published that show no difference between atheism and religion as relates to mental health (Moore and Leach 2016). Religion, when it is considered to be more beneficial, is largely said to do so because of the community aspect that accompanies it; there is nothing that restricts community to religion and, as an ex-athlete, I personally felt more support from those communities than I ever did within a church. As to marijuana, while some use does seem to be correlated to mental illness, no causal links have ever been established (Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK) and it seems reasonable that people with high levels of anxiety or depression, for example, may have found that marijuana helped them through with a pre-existing condition.

      I’m not trying to start a long discussion, but I do think that if comments are posted on these forums/articles, they should at least be backed by some basis of fact and reasoning, rather than just attempting to get an smattering of angry responses or to be attention grabbing. I’m well aware that this isn’t your first or last comment on The Record, and it seems that argumentation with students and alumni happens as a result of these incendiary comments. By all means, continue to post them, but at least do everyone the courtesy of backing them up properly rather than actually writing false things down. I am fine with being told that liberalization of the economy is a good thing; I won’t agree with you, but there are arguments in its favor that are based in fact. I am not fine being told that 2+2=5 without some sort of mathematical proof or reasoning.

      I do think that open discussions and, indeed, confronting opinions we don’t get exposed to normally are a good thing. Williams or the Record do not seem inclined to remove your capacity to do so (and nor should they for that matter) despite some of your allusions to tyranny and brainwashing (see: http://williamsrecord.com/2017/02/22/a-better-ul-for-all-on-the-need-for-a-more-transparent-and-accountable-uncomfortable-learning/). While I may not agree with you it, at the very least, does make me double-check my own opinions and what they are based on. But, again, please do us the favor of using proper research and reasoning.

    • EphAlumnus

      I do think it is important to actually keep a grasp on the facts and current academic (and scientific) literature. Concerning Williams specifically, the college does not pronounce itself as atheist by any means (secular learning is not the same as promotion of atheism) and, in fact, makes religious resources available through the various chaplains, societies, etc. and their involvement in some of the official ceremonies (including Convocation and Commencement). In addition, school policy is very clearly against marijuana and condemns its use, as well as sending Security to catch anyone who does use it on campus.

      Regarding academic and scientific literature, then, and the association you made to mental illness, here are a few other things. There have, in fact, been empirical papers published that show no difference between atheism and religion as relates to mental health (Moore and Leach 2016). Religion, when it is considered to be more beneficial, is largely said to do so because of the community aspect that accompanies it; there is nothing that restricts community to religion and, as an ex-athlete, I personally felt more support from those communities than I ever did within a church. As to marijuana, while some use does seem to be correlated to mental illness, no causal links have ever been established (Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK) and it seems reasonable that people with high levels of anxiety or depression, for example, may have found that marijuana helped them through with a pre-existing condition.

      I’m not trying to start a long discussion, but I do think that if comments are posted on these forums/articles, they should at least be backed by some basis of fact and reasoning, rather than just attempting to get an smattering of angry responses or to be attention grabbing. I’m well aware that this isn’t your first or last comment on The Record, and it seems that argumentation with students and alumni happens as a result of these incendiary comments. By all means, continue to post them, but at least do everyone the courtesy of backing them up properly rather than actually writing false things down. I am fine with being told that liberalization of the economy is a good thing; I won’t agree with you, but there are arguments in its favor that are based in fact. I am not fine being told that 2+2=5 without some sort of mathematical proof or reasoning.

      I do think that open discussions and, indeed, confronting opinions we don’t get exposed to normally are a good thing. Williams or the Record do not seem inclined to remove your capacity to do so (and nor should they for that matter) despite some of your allusions to tyranny and brainwashing (see: http://williamsrecord.com/2017/02/22/a-better-ul-for-all-on-the-need-for-a-more-transparent-and-accountable-uncomfortable-learning/). While I may not agree with you it, at the very least, does make me double-check my own opinions and what they are based on. But, again, please do us the favor of using proper research and reasoning.