In a message sent to the community, Provost David Kotz ’86 announced a comprehensive, institution-wide initiative to support the mental health of graduate, professional, and undergraduate students at Dartmouth.
Commitment to Care: Dartmouth’s Strategic Plan for Student Mental Health and Well-Being is a central piece of President Sian Leah Beilock’s vision for Dartmouth, which she described during her Inaugural address last month. In addition to long-term goals, the plan identifies specific, immediate steps that the institution is taking to address student mental health.
“We know that the healthier we are, the better we can learn, make connections, and reach our full potential,” Kotz said in the email message. “Commitment to Care is an important step in supporting the health and well-being of all Dartmouth students. We believe it will make essential and significant changes in our campus culture and environment.”
In her Inaugural address, President Beilock noted that “anxiety, stress, and depression—particularly among young people—are at an all-time high, having been exacerbated by the global pandemic,” and called supporting the well-being of the Dartmouth community “the single greatest service we can do for our students, our faculty, and our staff.”
Commitment to Care is organized around five goals: centering student well-being in and out of the academic context, creating an inclusive environment, equipping students with skills to navigate success and failure, proactively addressing student mental illness, and investing in new applications of evidence-based approaches to respond to changing needs.
Several elements of the plan have already been launched, including the elimination of overnight observation fees at the Dartmouth Health Service infirmary, a revised policy governing student time away for medical reasons, and the creation of a senior leadership position, the chief health and wellness officer, for which a search is currently underway.
In addition, Dartmouth has increased its clinical counseling staff by 50% in the past three years and provided all students with access to teletherapy services through the mental health provider Uwill.
In total, the plan outlines 73 specific actions, of which 35 are already underway.
Along with hiring the inaugural chief health and wellness officer, who will report directly to the president, actions that will occur this academic year include:
- Expanding mental health education for faculty and staff, which includes developing a policy for equipping all newly hired employees with the skills to recognize when students may be experiencing mental-health problems and to connect them with the resources they need;
- Systematically reviewing organizational structures to assess the capacity of mental health and well-being-focused staffing across all schools; and
- Developing and launching a comprehensive, user-friendly, and easy-to-find website for all student mental health and well-being resources and information.
Commitment to Care was developed from the findings of the Healthy Minds Survey administered in 2021 through Dartmouth’s partnership with the Jed Foundation and takes into account core institutional values, best practices at other institutions, and the perspectives of students, staff, and faculty across Dartmouth.
“I would like to extend my gratitude to the many of you who have played pivotal roles in the development of the plan, with a special acknowledgement to the undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students who dedicated countless hours contributing to the important work done by the committees and the focus groups, and to everyone who helped us review and vet the plan and its actions,” Kotz said.
A town hall meeting to answer questions and discuss the plan is being organized for later this term.