Dear Dartmouth community,
As the academic year winds down, I write to update you on the steps Dartmouth is taking to place mental health, well-being, and belonging at the center of our campus culture and to give you a preview of what to expect over the summer and into the fall.
Since 2021, Dartmouth has been engaged in a comprehensive and data-driven review of student mental health on campus. Our goal is to create an all-Dartmouth strategic plan based on our JED campus assessmentOpens in a new window, survey dataOpens in a new window, recommendations from working groups who were tasked with evaluating the campus assessment feedback, and approximately 20 community engagement sessions with students, staff, and faculty.
We expect to share an institutional strategic plan focused on mental health and well-being with actions and measurable outcomes during the fall term.
Selected Progess to Date
This year, we took immediate actions to address urgent needs and enhance our campus mental health support system. These steps include hiring additional mental health and nutrition staff, changing the PE credit to the WE (wellness) credit, hosting a Day of Caring, and adding emergency/barrier removal funds for the graduate and professional schools. (See a list of actionsOpens in a new window to date.)
We have also made progress on three initiatives: Uwill, Headspace, and our mental health awareness and skills training sessions. I am including details about those resources and activities as well as an update on revisions to the policy on time away for medical reasons.
In Nov. 2022, we contracted with UwillOpens in a new window to provide students with free 24/7 teletherapy from any location. This service includes a hotline, Uhelp, that provides direct connection to a licensed counselor trained in crisis response 24 hours a day, every day.
Usage Data (Nov. 1, 2022 to May 29, 2023)
- 2,763 counseling sessions
- 1,119 registered students
- 83 calls to Uhelp (November through April)
Early feedback suggests that students are, on the whole, highly satisfied with Uwill services, During the same period, the Counseling Center saw an increase in the number of students for counseling, as well as an increase in the number of students who use their on-call services.
We also gave students, staff and faculty free access to a meditation and wellness app, HeadspaceOpens in a new window, to help reduce stress.
Usage Data (as of April 2023)
- 1,029 enrolled students
- Average per month of 250 active student users
- Primary services used: mindfulness, sleep, focus
Early feedback suggests that Headspace helps students when they need support the most, especially nights and weekends, and assists them in developing self-care skills and strategies that will be useful throughout the rest of their lives.
Mental Health Awareness and Skills Training
A campus where all students thrive depends on a culture in which we not only take care of ourselves, but of each other. This year, we trained 640 students, staff, and faculty to recognize and help students with mental health concerns. These training programs include Adult Mental Health First AidOpens in a new window, Campus ConnectOpens in a new window, Creating a Culture of CareOpens in a new window, and the Student Support NetworkOpens in a new window.
Time Away for Medical Reasons Policy
A major focus of our mental health review has been revisiting and revising the policy currently known as “medical withdrawal” or “medical leave.” We plan to announce, later this calendar year, changes designed to better support students taking time away to care for their mental and physical well-being.
- New name: We plan to change the policy name to Time Away for Medical Reasons (TAMR) to describe more accurately its purpose and eliminate any misconceptions or stigma.
- Language: The policy is being revised to be clearer and more student-centered.
- Additional staff and centralized support: A new position will be created to help students (undergraduate, graduate, and professional) navigate the TAMR process, help maintain connections to Dartmouth, and support their return to campus.
- Health insurance: For students with demonstrated financial need who are covered under the Dartmouth Student Group Health Plan insurance (DSGHP) or who whose DSGHP coverage has lapsed, Dartmouth will help with the plan’s cost for an additional year.
- Campus access. We are reviewing campus access for students who are taking time away for medical reasons.
Changing culture, developing new procedures and policies, and improving how we interact with one another takes time. We are committed to doing the work to create an environment where all students can thrive and feel a sense of community, caring, and belonging.
I appreciate the many students, faculty, and staff who have dedicated countless hours, provided feedback, and shared their personal experiences. For some, it was painful to relive challenging times in their lives. Thank you for caring about our community and dedicating your time and emotional energy to making us stronger.
I will continue to share more updates as we move through the summer and fall. If you have questions or comments, you can email Office.of.the.Provost@dartmouth.eduOpens in a new window.
Best wishes, and be well,
Provost David Kotz ’86