Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana praised new mental health initiatives launched by the University and the Counseling and Mental Health Service this fall during an interview on Friday.
This month, Harvard launched a campus-wide mental health awareness campaign following recommendations from the Harvard Task Force on Managing Student Mental Health, convened in 2019 by the Provost of Alan M. Garber University ’76.
Additionally, CAMHS announced on October 5 that it will provide students with access to a new virtual counseling and wellbeing platform. Some students have already criticized CAMHS wait times, which last semester reached around six weeks for a first appointment due to increased demand and clinician turnover.
“While no one has a perfect solution, I am truly grateful that we are rolling out so many new initiatives, which I think should help both reinforce the idea that mental health is part of well-being and also increase opportunities to access the potential help people need,” Khurana said.
For the second year in a row, Harvard students held an exhibit of 1,000 backpacks at Harvard Yard in September. The exhibit, which Khurana described as “very moving and powerful”, represents the annual toll of student suicide in the United States.
“It was a poignant reminder that while I think we’ve made progress in destigmatizing mental health, not everyone has easy access to it,” he said.
Khurana called on Harvard affiliates to “serve as role models” by asking for help and sharing their stories with others.
“Seeking help is a sign of strength,” he said. “I think talking about it and sharing your own story or struggles can be beneficial.”
Khurana also discussed the following topics:
Ahead of the November 8 midterm elections, Khurana encouraged students to vote and learn about political issues. He cited the work of the Harvard Votes Challenge to encourage increased voter registration.
“We always encourage students to get involved and vote. It is an important exercise in democratic accountability. We tried to make it as easy as possible for students to get mail-in ballots,” Khurana said. “This is an essential responsibility for those who vote in American elections.”
Khurana noted that some students may be “frustrated about whether a vote counts,” but stressed the importance of civic engagement.
“Often many elections are much closer than people think. Votes matter, and they are expressions of interest and expressions of hopes and directions,” Khurana said. the best political leaders end up being leaders of all the people they represent, not just the group that voted for them.”
Two Harvard College alumni received the Nobel Prize in early October. Carolyn R. Bertozzi ’88 received the award “for the development of click chemistry and bioorthogonal chemistry” on October 5, and former United States Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke ’75 was one of three recipients of the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Khurana said he was “over the moon” upon learning that the College alumni are now Nobel laureates.
“Experiences [Bertozzi] had and the people she worked with, it really spoke to what we are trying to create for each student,” Khurana said. “To authentically pursue the things that interest them, to have that transformative experience in the relationships and the subjects they study and through their peers,” he added.
The Crimson interviews Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana once a month during the academic year. Click here to submit a question for consideration at our next interview.
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