Addressing concerns from the NYU Shanghai student body that have been circulating for several years, the Student Health Advisory Committee hosted a Town Hall on May 11. The primary focus of the Town Hall was to unite administrators, Health and Wellness staff, and students in a conversation about mental health issues at NYU Shanghai. Madeline Dupre, Senior Counselor at Health and Wellness, attended, as well as Committee members Millicent Wong, Bishka Zareen Chand, Marissa Moreno, Krista Bolton, Anisa Muca, Ronak Trivedi, and Lingyi Liu.
The Town Hall was divided into four parts: Counseling, Addressing Mental Health, Drug Policies and Sexual Misconduct, and Open Questions. The sessions addressed the limited staff and types of counseling being offered at NYU Shanghai, as well advocating for better communication between Health and Wellness and Parkway Health, the international hospital that many students are referred to. Stigma around reporting sexual assault and drug policy violations were also discussed.
A key recurring theme among students was the lack of support for mental health issues in the university. Several students shared their stories of feeling unwelcome at Health and Wellness, being diagnosed or prescribed medications by Parkway Health psychiatrists after just one session, or being advised to go home after just one or two counseling sessions at Health and Wellness.
Class of 2017 member Julie Hauge was one student who shared her experience with seeing a Health and Wellness counselor. “I was given the impression I was not welcome back,” she explained. “When the session ended, that was the end of all communication.” Several other students also referenced limited communication with Health and Wellness after a counseling session, even when the student had been prescribed medication they may not know how to use properly.
“What I was told up front by the counselor was was that they don’t have enough people and these are trivial matters you need to learn to deal with on your own,” said Class of 2017 member Roman Chen of an experience with a Health and Wellness counselor. Chen also highlighted the fact that Chinese students do not have access to GeoBlue health insurance, which is available for international students to cover their trips to Parkway Health psychiatrists. Chinese students, Chen stressed, have even fewer options in terms of mental health care than international students do.
Several students expressed their hesitation speaking to counselors, professors, or other NYU Shanghai staff about mental health issues due to stigma. “The people who you’re supposed to look up to can say very very hurtful things that definitely do not help with student mental health issues,” Class of 2019 member Jade Jin said. At NYU Shanghai, Resident Assistants (RAs) like Jin are required to go through Safe Zone training and Title IX training (addressing LGBTQ+ issues and sexual assault/harassment, respectively).
According to Dean of Students Charlene Visconti, Title IX training is required for all NYU employees across the network, and faculty are briefed on available resources if they believe a student needs support for a mental health issue. Sensitivity training is also optional for NYU staff.
Not every student had negative experiences with Health and Wellness. “In general, I’ve been having a fairly good experience with Health and Wellness,” said Class of 2018 student Tirza Alberta. “They helped me arrange accommodations and I’m grateful for that. However, that hasn’t been the case for some of my friends. I believe that when a system is working for some students but not some others, something needs to be done.”
Debates about the mental health situation at NYU Shanghai are not new. In the past, OCA investigated the mental health issues facing NYU Shanghai, but from the student perspective, there are still problems to address.
“I’d like to call on the people who have a direct line of communication with the administration,” said Class of 2017 student Max Bork. “The message is, as I see it, is we had a forum and all these problems came up, and we need real change, real fundamental improvements.”
Senior Counselor Dupre largely listened and took notes during the duration of the Town Hall. “I’m here because I’m interested in hearing what your experiences are, so thank you for being candid,” she said.
The Committee is writing an open letter to the whole NYU Shanghai community, and further communicating with Visconti and Assistant Dean of Students David Pe.
“The committee was created as a response to students being asked to change this situation, even though it shouldn’t be students instigating the change,” Committee member Millicent Wong said. “We are hoping to make change and not let it end here at this meeting. The intention of this meeting is to collect more experiences and responses to add to our action plan and take it to Charlene Visconti and David Pe, and depending on their responses, go to New York with this.”
This article was written by Savannah Billman. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch.
Photo Credit: Millicent Wong