The Yale Layer sent out a brief survey to assess the general climate surrounding mental health on campus. 298 responses were collected from a wide variety of undergraduates. For each statement, respondents were given three options: 1) yes, 2) no, or 3) a write-in answer. The elaborations and insights collected through the third option were the most revealing in describing the general feel on campus. Most comments echoed one another and highlighted important nuances in the mental health discussion.
Mental health is a taboo subject at Yale.
60.3% say no.
33.6% say yes.
As a whole, the majority feel that it is not taboo, and “definitely less so than in the general public, but [Yale] is not exactly a safe haven though.” A few clarified along the lines of, “within the larger Yale community - somewhat. Within my friend group - not at all.” One respondent gives a more personal explanation extending beyond the scope of Yale: “I think I have internalized mental health as a taboo subject and brought that with me to Yale.”
Furthermore, the quality of discussion on the topic does not necessarily seem to be adequate. For example, “people are willing to talk about it superficially but not vulnerably or personally.” Another respondent explains that “it's something people speak a lot about but once you make it personal, everything gets uncomfortable,” and another claims “it is not taboo, but it is not common to talk about in real ways.” However, one respondent, noted that while mental health is not taboo, “if you open up to someone about having mental health issues most times they don't know how to react.” This important contradiction reflects the complexity of the conversation and just how personal it becomes – the demand for discussion is strong, but the actual desire to discuss it on deeper levels seems to be lacking.
One particularly striking response explains that “we tend to act like everything is going well all the time. For example, a friend asked how I was doing in passing and I said I was fine. When I asked her in return, she said that she was tired. The fact that she was honest about not feeling well surprised me.” An honest conversation about one’s mental well-being is strongly desired and surprising when it does authentically occur.
I am consistently happy here at Yale.
57% say no.
36.6% say yes.
The majority are not “consistently happy,” but others note that “consistently is a high bar” and one “would not say consistently happy but definitely happy the majority of the time.” One respondent feels “consistently okay.” Another replaced consistently with “inconsistently.” Generally happy seems to be a more well-liked phrase: “consistently is a hard word to describe any emotion, but I find myself to be generally happy.”
Grades and external measures seem to dictate internal happiness, as happiness “varies often where metrics of performance like grades, or an acceptance to a seminar, or competitive extracurricular activity might influence how I feel about my goals and participation on campus overall.” Another respondent adds that they are happy “most of time when my grades and life are somewhat together.”
My friends are consistently happy here at Yale.
70.1% say no.
19.5% say yes.
A greater proportion of respondents (36.6% to 19.5%) find themselves consistently happy than they find their friends to be.
Many others don’t really know. Seven (2.3%) said they weren’t sure, with one explaining, “I hope they’d feel comfortable telling me, but I can’t be sure.” Another notes that “appearances are deceptive.”
One respondent describes friends as “typical Yalies: relatively happy, just also sleep deprived and very, very busy.” Another explains that friends are “happy, but not at the highest level of well-being.”
I have spoken to my friends about topics regarding mental health.
82.6% say yes.
16.1% say no.
There is established discussion between friends, but the discussion is described to be more superficial than they would like it to be.
I have a great support system here at Yale.
71.8% say yes.
21.1% say no.
There is a strong theme of dissatisfaction with the professional resources available at Yale, despite the support system found “through friends/teammates.” One respondent notes “my friends are [a great support system], but the institution isn’t.” Another echoes that they have “great friends, but [I] wish professionally it was easier and more clear how to get counseling and help.” A third explains, “I have supportive friends, but there is not a good professional mental health support network for me. I stopped showing up to therapy last year and didn't even receive a single phone call to check in on me.”
However, this support network found in friends also poses internal conflict. “At times, I feel I do. At other times, I feel like I'm being a burden on everyone and feel guilty about reaching out to anyone.” It is not the mere existence of close friends that is the issue, but “when they are busy or unavailable or having problems themselves, I don't really have anywhere to turn.” Another respondent echoes, “I have a good support system but people are always busy and sometimes you have to help yourself which is harder.”
I know where to seek mental health treatment at Yale.
77.5% say yes.
16.8% say no.
Write-in answers (~5% of remaining respondents) mostly criticized the quality of Yale’s mental health services. Respondents know where to get treatment, but…
“I don’t find it that helpful,”
“tbh Yale Health is trash,”
“Yale mental health services are HORRIBLE,”
“It’s no good,”
“I hear it’s hit or miss,”
“I will not go to Yale Health because I know it will take too long to get an appointment,”
“My friends and I have had terrible experiences with Yale Health,”
“It is grossly inadequate,”
“I don’t always feel like its adequate,”
“I have found Yale’s mental health facilities grossly inadequate. I seek treatment off campus,”
“The options were insufficient,”
“I know that if I try to make an appointment, it will take a month to schedule,”
“It takes literal months to be seen, and things change between September and January, and they're reluctant to diagnose…”
Additionally, fewer than half of respondents (38.3%) have sought mental health services at Yale, whereas the majority (59.7%) have not. Friends’ accounts and stories seem to play a big role in the perception and usage of the University’s resources.
Survey and Report by Bebe Thompson.