Yale changes mental health policies for struggling students

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Yale University on Wednesday unveiled sweeping changes that will allow students suffering from mental health issues to take time off without losing their health insurance or facing a daunting reinstatement application process, policies that have come under increasing fire from students and former students.

Under the new policy, students in mental health crisis will be able to take time off rather than being forced to drop out and will be able to return to classes “when they feel ready,” Yale College principal Pericles Lewis told students in an email. .

The policy changes come two months after a Washington Post story in which students described being pressured by Yale administrators to withdraw once the university learned of their mental health issues and forced to reapply to return.

“What if Yale finds out?”

The story drew on the accounts of more than 25 current and former students, who described a university filled with a $41.4 billion endowment but plagued by inadequate services and policies that punish those with mental breakdowns.

After the story was published, alumni and faculty expressed alarm to Yale administrators and demanded changes. In November, current and former students filed a lawsuit accusing the school of systematically discriminating against students with mental illness and pressuring them to drop out.

In his email to students, Lewis wrote that the changes were made after “listening to current and former students and collaborating with colleagues across the university” and thanked “the many students, past and present, who shared their experiences”.

In his letter, he addressed all students facing crises, saying, “I hope these revised policies ease any concerns about your student status, allowing you (and the people who support you) to focus on what’s important.” “.

In the past, many students who were suicidal or suffered from mental health issues said they were pressured by Yale officials to withdraw, sometimes while still in the hospital. Those who did so had to leave campus in 72 hours or less and were effectively forbidden to set foot on campus again without the express permission of a principal.

In interviews with The Post, several students — who relied on Yale health insurance — described losing access to therapy and health care when they needed it most.

The policy changes announced on Wednesday have upended nearly all of those practices.

By allowing mentally challenged students to take time off rather than drop out, they will continue to have access to health insurance through Yale, university officials said. They can continue to work as dependent students, meet with career counselors, have campus access, and use library resources.

In recent weeks, students and mental advocates have wondered why Yale wouldn’t allow students with mental breakdowns to take fewer classes. The new policies will now allow students to reduce their course load to a minimum of two classes.

In the past, withdrawn students had to submit an application for reinstatement, which included letters of recommendation and proof that they remained “constructively employed” during the period of absence. Under the new policies, students returning from medical leave will submit a “simplified reinstatement request” that includes a letter from their doctor and a personal statement explaining why they left, the treatment they received, and why they feel ready to continue. return.

In their online policies, the university clarified that they still retain the right to impose involuntary medical leave on students in cases of “significant risk to the health or safety of the student or to the health or safety of others.”

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