Dartmouth launches student mental health plan

In a message to the community, Provost David Kotz ’86 announced a comprehensive institution-wide initiative to support the mental health of Dartmouth graduate, professional and undergraduate students.

Commitment to Care: Dartmouth’s Strategic Plan for Student Mental Health and Well-Being is a central part of President Sian Leah Baylock’s vision for Dartmouth, which she outlined during her commencement speech last month. In addition to long-term goals, the plan identifies specific, immediate steps the institution is taking to address student mental health.

“We know that the healthier we are, the better we can learn, connect and reach our full potential,” Kotz said in the email. “The Commitment to Care is an important step in supporting the health and well-being of all students at Dartmouth. We believe this will make substantial and significant changes to our campus culture and environment.”

In his inaugural address, President Baylock noted that “anxiety, stress and depression—especially among young people—are at an all-time high, exacerbated by the global pandemic,” and called for supporting the well-being of the Dartmouth community “the greatest service we can do for our students, our faculty and our staff.”

The commitment to care is organized around five goals: centering student well-being within and beyond the academic context, creating inclusive environments, equipping students with skills to navigate success and failure, proactively addressing student mental illness, and investing in new applications of evidence-based approaches to respond to changing needs.

Several elements of the plan have already been launched, including the elimination of overnight charges at Dartmouth Health Service Hospital, a revised policy governing student absences for medical reasons, and the creation of a senior leadership position, Chief Health and Wellness Officer, for which in a search is currently underway.

In addition, Dartmouth has increased its clinical counseling staff by 50% in the past three years and provided all students with access to teletherapy services through mental health provider Uwill.

In total, the plan outlines 73 specific actions, of which 35 are already underway.

Along with the hiring of the inaugural Chief Health and Wellness Officer, who will report directly to the president, actions that will take place this academic year include:

  • Expanding mental health education for faculty and staff, which includes developing a policy to equip all new hires with the skills to recognize when students may be experiencing mental health issues and connect them with the resources they need;
  • A systematic review of organizational structures to assess the capacity of staff focused on mental health and well-being in all schools; and
  • Develop and launch a comprehensive, user-friendly and easy-to-find website for all student mental health and wellbeing resources and information.

The Commitment to Care was developed based on findings from the 2021 Healthy Minds Survey conducted through Dartmouth’s partnership with the Jed Foundation, and takes into account core institutional values, best practices at other institutions, and the perspectives of students, staff and the faculty at Dartmouth.

“I would like to express my gratitude to many of you who played a key role in the development of the plan, with special thanks to the students, undergraduates and students in the professional schools who devoted countless hours contributing to the important work done by the committees and focus groups , as well as everyone who helped us review and verify the plan and its actions,” said Kotz.

A town hall meeting to answer questions and discuss the plan is being arranged for later this term.

Read the full plan and find answers to frequently asked questions.

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