Leaders offer update on the Campus Mental Health Review

Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education Kathryn Boor, Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi, Assistant Vice President of Student and Campus Life for Health and Wellbeing Sharon McMullen and Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Lisa Nishii issued the following statement Feb. 16: 

In October of last year, we released the final report from a year-long Mental Health Review, an effort that built upon longstanding work to examine and address mental health at Cornell. The review examined our campus culture, environment, academic root causes, strategies, and services in relation to student mental health. The final report included a robust series of recommendations that fall into categories corresponding to key elements of the university’s comprehensive mental health framework.

As executive sponsors of the review’s Executive Accountability Committee (EAC), we are charged with overseeing the implementation of report recommendations. Change leads from the EAC are already facilitating the advancement of recommendations on several fronts, and will initiate additional efforts this semester. We will also continue to explore ways, such as the recent elimination of weekend prelims, to address the academic-related stress experienced by many during this time of hybrid instruction and decreased in-person connection.

While Cornell’s administration will work to implement recommendations, changing our campus culture to better support mental health requires efforts at every level – from systems and policies to the ways we interact with one another as individual members of our campus community. In addition to supporting clinical services for mental health, we must address the underlying factors that contribute to a troubling number of students at Cornell, and across the country, being unable to function academically due to depression, stress, or anxiety. This includes factors unique to certain student groups (e.g. graduate and professional students) and disparities faced by students with historically marginalized identities.

We were encouraged that the external reviewers affirmed much of our collective approach to well-being, including collaborative clinical services, peer-led efforts that encourage help-seeking, and initiatives to promote social connectedness and resilience. One way we hope to help shift the culture is to shine a light on what is already working well and to learn from one another. To that end, we will be seeking examples of what we refer to as “bright spots,” efforts at any level (e.g., department, classroom, individual) that we can learn from, share, and replicate across departments and colleges.

Changing culture takes time and patience, but we are committed to staying the course to reach our goals set forth from the review. As we navigate the many challenges currently facing our campus and around the world, we must recognize their impact on mental health and well-being. The cumulative effects of the pandemic, economic downturn, and racial injustices have taken a toll on mental health. So as we work to address systems-level issues, we must also attend to our own well-being. We would like to remind you of many available resources for self-care and support, including Coping During COVID-19, Managing Work and Life, and anonymous support from 24/7 hotline and text lines.

Thank you for helping to make campus mental health a top priority. We believe this work will help advance our commitment to “... any person ... any study” and establish a shared experience of belonging and support at Cornell. Periodic updates on the Mental Health Review can be found at mentalhealthreview.cornell.edu.

Wishing you good health.

Media Contact

Abby Butler