Yale Covers Up Mental Health Issues

Jordan Chan

Editor in Chief

TW: This article contains references to suicide and sexual assault.

On Nov. 11, The Washington Post published an article about a student at Yale University, referred to as S., who shared that after attempting to end her life in June of 2021, the first thought to cross her mind was: “What if Yale finds out?” This student is a survivor of sexual assault.

Her fear stemmed from stories — some of which the Washington Post article covered — about Yale forcing or pressuring students to leave temporarily because of their mental health. When students withdraw from the university, they must reapply. Up until April, when Yale relaxed reinstatement requirements, students had to write an essay, provide letters of recommendation, participate in an interview, and take outside courses to demonstrate their capacity to return to the university.

After her suicide attempt, doctors told S. they had to tell college officials what happened. From there, Yale’s director of Mental Health and Counseling Paul Hoffman told S. and her parents that the school was “strongly recommend[ing]” a medical withdrawal. S. worried about losing her support systems on campus — friends, mentors, and routines that “gave her purpose, identity, and support when she needed them most.” However, “she knew Yale could force her to withdraw.” S. stated, “They make you feel like you’re the best…but as soon as something’s wrong, they want nothing to do with you.” 

  1. explained that after withdrawing, she had to focus on meeting reinstatement requirements, especially due to the financial strain tuition, hospital fees, and therapy put on her immigrant parents. S. took dance classes, did lab research, volunteered as a domestic violence hotline crisis counselor, and more. Though she believed her work was meaningful, she also felt as though it was performance, since she had to demonstrate her readiness to come back to school. After Yale approved her reinstatement, she returned to campus with anger towards the school she once loved. “They never asked what they could do to help with the sexual assault and PTSD. Not a single question about how Yale can support you. They didn’t take into account who I was and what I needed.”

Hoffman and Dean Pericles Lewis defended Yale: “[this article] perpetuated a dangerous belief that college students should stay in school whatever the risk to their mental health and safety.” Yale President Peter Salovey added that the article “does not reflect Yale’s efforts to foster student wellness,” referencing recent efforts to improve mental health support on campus. These changes include revised reinstatement policies, a counseling pilot program, and additional staff.

On Nov. 30, Elis for Rachael — a group calling for reformed mental health policies at Yale — filed a class-action lawsuit against Yale seeking injunctive relief. They alleged that the school discriminates against students struggling with mental illnesses. Students, family, and alumni had founded Elis for Rachael after another student at Yale’s death by suicide in March 2021.

(Sources: Yale Daily News, The Washington Post, Elis for Rachael, Yale University)

Categories: National, News

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