Content Warning: This article contains mentions of student deaths.
A mental health task force formed in collaboration between the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), the Office of Campus Life and University Health Services (UHS) released a final report on campus mental health resources on Sept. 19.
Recommendations in the report include implementing 24/7 On-Demand Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS), funding transportation to off-campus mental health services, establishing a “system of well-being controls that does not rely entirely on over the Department of Public Safety” and funding “to expand the number and diversity of CPS counselors.”
The working group was formed out of a Senate-sponsored referendum during this past spring’s election cycle that asked the university to conduct a review of the mental health resources available to students and to provide resources to fill the gaps identified in that review . The progress made by the working group is emblematic of a USG administration that, from its inception, has emphasized the goal of making student mental health a priority.
A letter of introduction to the report – signed by USG Mental Health Resources Task Force Co-Chairs Stephen Daniels ’24 and Anna Sivaraj ’23, USG Vice President Hannah Kapoor ’23 and USG President Mayu Takeuchi ’23 – confirmed, that there are mental health concerns have been particularly relevant in recent years following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The university resumed a range of fully face-to-face activities, but we as students have continued to navigate various impacts of the pandemic, including grief for personal and community losses and extended disruptions to academic, social and extracurricular opportunities,” the letter reads.
The bulk of the report is structured as a set of recommendations – 32 in total across four areas of interest, including just seven recommendations that the university has not yet agreed to implement.
Each recommendation describes an action or set of actions that has been delegated to a specific administrator or group, and each is marked with one of four possible statuses: “under review”, meaning that they are currently being considered by “relevant stakeholders”. on which is examined university; “in progress”, meaning that the recommendation has been accepted and “work has started on completion”; “closed”; or “completed and ongoing”.
The proposals are organized into four sections: Transition to Princeton and Navigational Resources, Residential Colleges, Outreach Counselors and Counselors at CPS, Off-Campus Mental Health Care, and Telehealth.
The section on the transition to Princeton emphasizes strategies for increasing awareness of mental health resources among first-year students. Current work in progress includes establishing a health advisory board for UHS students by Spring 2023 and improving the visibility of advisor photos on the CPS website.
Within the residential colleges on campus, the university is working on “Build[ing] develop a robust crisis response system that does not rely solely on public safety (recognizing that interacting with fully equipped officers can make situations worse).”
This would include utilizing the new Residential Life Coordinator (RLC) position, as well as establishing communications from UHS to ensure Residential College staff are “also aware of resources and support related to sub-clinical needs – such as those provided by “Peer Health Advisers are available (PHAs); Sexual Harassment/Assault Advice, Resources and Education (SHARE); the Office for Religious Life (ORL); and other. Both should be completed by spring 2023.
A number of residential school resource recommendations are under review. One suggests that the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Students, along with University Services, are considering “instituting a process for DSLs (Directors of Student Life) to target the use of student dining room meals when assessing student welfare concerns to refer”.
To generate recommendations on TigerWell Outreach Counselors, other CPS Counselors, and off-campus care, the working group reviewed the Spring 2022 CPS Satisfaction Survey and student feedback from USG channels, and also surveyed students who referred to off-campus providers had been referred in the past two years.
“Personally, I’m proud to say that almost every recommendation is the result of feedback one of the working group members heard from other students about their experiences at Princeton,” Daniels wrote in a message to The Daily Princetonian.
The report found that while CPS customers are generally satisfied with the services provided, there are currently two significant concerns: first, that students experience long wait times when using CPS services, and second, that there are ” There is insufficient support for students of color, LGBTQ+ students and other students with underrepresented backgrounds and identities.”
They found that the average wait time for the initial CPS consultation was 5.22 days, with the average wait time between the initial consultation and intake being 14.75 days. Some individual advisors also had longer wait times than others.
The report stated that the Vice President for Campus Life has committed to working with the Office of Advancement to “[pursue] Fundraising efforts for TigerWell’s continuation, including the Outreach Counselor program, beyond [fiscal year] 2024 as Priority” with the goal of institutionalizing the Outreach Counselor program as its funding ends. The deadline for this article is set for summer 2023.
By spring 2023, the director of the CPS, Dr. Calvin Chin tasked with expanding the Outreach Counselor program to include more staff with the opportunity to add new specialized counselors “dedicated to students with disabilities or chronic pain/illness”.
Another ongoing item aims to “identify funding to support transportation to off-campus care, including the ability to purchase vouchers for Lyft, or potentially create a Well Ride program here at Princeton University.”
The report said that while students expressed interest in telemedicine options in addition to in-person services, students also raised concerns about “the lack of private, reservable rooms on campus for telemedicine appointments.” In direct response to these concerns, the CPS director has compiled and continues to maintain a list of private rooms on campus that are available for telemedicine appointments. Additionally, all appointment reminder emails now include links to available telemedicine areas on campus.
Several other initiatives related to telemedicine are currently underway. By spring 2023, the CPS director intends to change messaging to “lower the bar on access” to include after-hours phone counseling and expand counseling availability. In addition, 24/7 advisory services will be set up by autumn 2023.
Proposals to develop a mental health screening tool for students to complete at the beginning of each school year, to encourage participation in mental health training during the winter session, and to explore ways to expand the number of soundproof rooms on campus will be considered.
The report also addressed two primary additional issues. In conversations about academics, the group discussed counseling, more flexibility in grading and pass/d/fail policies, pauses in the academic calendar, and more support and resources for students on leave of absence.
Additionally, the group discussed support for the Asian and Pacific Islander (API) community, “particularly following the tragic loss of two students at the end of last semester.” The group formed an API Mental Health Working Group with administrators and alumni that plans to work with students and meet later this year to create a list of recommendations. Additionally, a partnership between CPS and the Asian American Student Association (AASA) will develop programs to “reduce the stigma surrounding access to care that has historically been prevalent in the API community.”
Framing the report, the working group believed that “these efforts demonstrate the importance of students engaging directly with university decision-makers,” stressing their hope that the group would serve as a “model for meaningful change across campus.” “ would serve.
“I hope this report is the start of a larger conversation about the leadership Princeton can play in addressing the current global mental health crisis,” Daniels wrote in a message to Prince. The group intends to provide quarterly updates on the report’s recommendations.
Alison Araten is the news editor for The Prince. She can be reached on Instagram at [email protected] and @alisonaraten.
Annie Rupertus is a freshman from Philadelphia and a news editor who covers USG for The Prince. She can be reached at [email protected] or @annierupertus on Instagram and Twitter.