Mental Health Community Council

Brown University is committed to supporting the mental health and well-being of our undergraduate, graduate, and medical students. The Mental Health Community Council (MHCC) was formed in fall 2014 to evaluate mental health policies and resources at Brown and to make concrete recommendations for improvement. The membership of the MHCC includes a broad cross section of students, faculty and staff.

Below please find:

2015-16 Work of the Council

At the Council’s meeting in November, 2015, it was decided to identify issues that could be resolved quickly and those that may require more time.  A list of issues was compiled from feedback received from undergraduate, graduate and medical students. An implementation group met in early December to discuss issues that can be addressed in the upcoming semester. A report of the issues discussed is reviewed here.

1. Create a web-based tool to explain the relationship between various departments such as CAPS, OSL, SEAS and  DOC; include lesser known resources, such as the Chaplain’s office, B’Well Health Promotion and the SHARE advocates.

[Aug 2016] Two students hired by B’Well Health Promotion, met with various student groups and campus departments and presented the prototype of the web-based tool to the MHCC. Based on feedback from many undergraduate and graduate students and MHCC members, modifications are being made with the intent of launching the site in Fall 2016. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

2. Make changes to the back of the student ID card updating name of “Counseling and Psychological Services” and add the number for the Administrator On Call (AOC).

[Aug 2016] Working with the card office, Assistant Vice President MaryLou McMillan has confirmed that new ID cards will provide accurate numbers and names for the AOC on-call so that students may access this resource in times of need. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

3. Add a mental health workshop as part of  orientation.

[Aug 2016]For undergraduate students, the optional mental health workshop has been redesigned with the help of CAPS staff and various student groups and will be offered in a larger venue this Fall. Based on feedback, the workshop will continue to be modified to reduce stigma about mental health and also introduce the resources available on campus to the incoming class.

Additionally, a short (roughly 8-minute) video on student mental health at Brown was produced this spring and will be included in the online tutorial that all undergraduate students must take before arriving at Brown.

For Graduate students, Dean Vanessa Ryan has created a Graduate Resources Poster which is being distributed across campus and has an accompanying web page that lists resources.  Deans in the Graduate School will continue to raise awareness of these resources through the Directors of Graduate Study (DGSs).

For medical students, there is progress on integrating wellness/resiliency in the curriculum that would begin at orientation and continue through the first two years of medical school. In addition, adding more on-site case management resources are also being considered.

See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

4. Separation of calls to  the Administrator on Call (AOC) from the Dispatch office as in some instances having DPS involved can prevent help seeking behavior.   

[Aug 2016] The AOC system will be included in Student Support Service’s program review which will be completed in 2016-17. Recommendations from the review may include communication protocols, effectives of emergency response, and assessment of procedures. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

5.Improve triage and availability of urgent appointments, if necessary, at CAPS.

[Aug 2016] CAPS piloted a new triage process that ensures protected time for an assigned therapist to work with students who need crises and urgent appointments. With this new system, all crises were seen on same day and students with urgent issues were seen within 72 hours. The designation of “crisis” and “urgent” status is determined by a therapist in conjunction with the triage person. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

6. Reduce  the waiting time at CAPS , at least from two+ weeks to one week.

[Aug 2016] By initiating an automatic appointment reminder email sent to students, CAPS decreased the no-show rate for appointments by 50% this semester, which allowed unfilled appointments to be available for students on the waitlist. However, there are still many no-shows, which can be utilized.   

CAPS will work on modifying the language of the email reminders to encourage more students to call/email to cancel appointments in advance, which will allow more effective utilization of therapists’ time.  CAPS will have full staffing in Fall 2016, which will allow a better estimation of areas where resources are needed or can be utilized more effectively.

See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

7. Offer evening and weekend hours in order to better serve graduate students, medical students, student athletes, and other communities.

[Aug 2016] Since March 2016, two CAPS therapists are available for Saturday appointments at Health Services during the academic year. Priority was given to medical and graduate students who are unable to access CAPS during regular hours.  In the coming semester, CAPS will explore means by which undergraduate students can utilize these hours if there is availability. Again, we hope that modifying the language on the email reminders will encourage more students to cancel appointments in advance, so that they can be utilized by other students. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

8.   Clarify the role of the Student Care Coordinator.

[Aug 2016] This semester, the role of Jorge Vargas as student care coordinator was expanded to include referral services for students who are familiar with the therapeutic process and would like referrals without having to see a therapist at CAPS. Jorge has been able to help many students and Drs. Twitchell and Khan will continue to evaluate the utilization of this position. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

9. Increase staff, especially staff of color and those who identify as queer or come from low income backgrounds.

[Aug 2016] CAPS staff continue to engage in monthly trainings in cultural competence. With availability of better tracking through electronic medical records, we are constantly evaluating if there are sub-populations whose needs are not being met and strategize ways of improving access to care. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

10.   Improve faculty awareness of mental health issues and importance of accepting Deans’ notes.

[Aug2016] Deans Maria Suarez, Shayna Kessel and Carol Cohen have restructured a 30-minute presentation on student mental health for new faculty orientation.  This presentation includes some basic information about Brown students in relation to mental health concerns, and an overview of what different offices and their functions. They are also working on a 1-page handout which would include the following:  what to look for vis-a-vis student mental health, how to respond when a student presents with an issue, what deans' support notes are and how to use them, and the various campus resources that are available.  There will be particular mention of the unique needs of international students, students from HUG backgrounds, and graduate students. Information regarding accommodation letters from SEAS and Dean’s notes will also be discussed. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

11. Remove the 7 session limit at CAPS.

[Aug 2016] This semester, CAPS staff have engaged in conversations to discuss parameters and structures needed to operate with internal rather than explicitly stated external limits, in order to offer greater flexibility to students who cannot afford community care or whose families would not support seeking help.  The goal is to remove the explicit session limit while keeping a short-term therapy model.

12.  Institute a standard follow up procedure for all AOC calls with an  internal review especially regarding response time, DPS sensitivity, and follow up support for callers.

[Aug 2016] A review of the AOC protocol is part of the Student Support Service’s program review which will be completed in 2016-17.  See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

13.  Call all students on medical leave.

[Aug 2016] Student Support Services’ Deans continue to call students who are on leave once a semester. See also the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

14. Reassess the timing of medical leave reapplication process to allow for rolling applications or 2 different adminissions deadlines.

[Aug 2016] A substantial change in FY16 in the medical leave reapplication process is the addition of a third review period. Historically the MLOA Review Committee had two deadline dates per year; November 1 for Spring semester readmission and May 1 for Fall semester readmission. Subsequently, students received readmission decisions in December and early June, respectively. These dates did not allow readmitted students the opportunity to participate in the housing lottery or to register for summer classes at Brown. In response to students' requests for the chance to participate in the housing lottery and select roommates upon their return, as well the opportunity to transition back to Brown slowly in the summer while taking a summer class, the committee added a third review. To expedite the timeline for students to receive their decisions and prepare for a spring return, the committee changed the readmission deadline during the fall semester to October 15. Additionally, the committee introduced February 1 as the deadline for the summer readmission and maintained the May 1 date for fall readmission. These minor alterations made a considerable difference to students. The MLOA process will also be evaluated during Student Support Services' program review.

15. Increase outreach by CAPS & OSL and improve collaboration with other departments such as the BCSC and LGBTQ center.

See the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

16. Centralize feedback forms for all departments.

See the January 2016 report of interim activity on this item.

17. Issues still under review:

a.Improve transparency of the medical leave process for undergraduate and graduate students by improving communication during the reapplication process. In addition tap alumni resources to alleviate some of the financial burdens faced by students on medical leave.

b. Supplement advising upon return from medical leave by bolstering the Leave taking Coordinator program through the CRC and publicizing the Back at Brown support group.

c. Improve resources for students recovering from substance abuse including awareness, improved options for substance free housing and establishing an on-campus Alcoholics Anonymous.

d. Review DPS protocols  for responding to psychiatric emergencies and improved sensitivity training, including awareness of race and gender power structures.

2014-2015 Work

  • During 2014-2015, a number of initiatives were undertaken by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and by Student Support Services in the Office of Student Life to address campus concerns and needs regarding mental health.
  • Updates may be reviewed in the email sent to all students along with the report.

Mental Health Community Council Membership