Dartmouth initiative to address students’ pandemic stress, mental health

Updated: May. 26, 2021 at 5:31 PM EDT
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HANOVER, N.H. (WCAX) - Dartmouth College is hiring more staff to help students who are struggling with the added stress caused by the pandemic.

It has been widely reported that the pandemic has taken a toll on people’s mental health, and that includes college students. Now, Dartmouth College says it is taking additional steps to support those who are struggling.

“Mentally, physically, yeah, it’s been super difficult,” said Tania Mahealani duPont, who spent much of the last 12 months isolated at home. It’s not exactly the senior year of college the Dartmouth student had hoped for. “Doing college from my childhood room was difficult, especially considering it’s my last year.”

Tragically, four Dartmouth students -- three freshmen and a junior -- did not survive the year. A vigil was held on campus this week honoring the lives lost. William Reason continues to grieve for one of his friends. “It is obviously quite a shock and a palpable loss for the community, along with the other three students we have lost this year,” he said.

It has been a year, according to college officials, that has exacerbated issues surrounding mental health. In a letter to the campus community, Dartmouth announced that it is adding additional staff to its health services team. The new counselors, along with offering individual therapy, will support suicide prevention training on campus.

“I want to push them to continue prioritizing student mental health, to continue trying to revitalize this institution to what I hoped it was when I applied,” said Reason.

The college has also loosened its rules a bit regarding social gatherings and is now encouraging classmates to get together. For much of the academic year, hanging out has been restricted. “You are just not really able to be friends with your classmates,” said Isabel Robinson, a freshman who went to the vigil to show her support. “I feel like I needed to and wanted to honor those who had lost someone and those who have passed.”

College officials acknowledge that more needs to be done to support students.

“I am hopeful. It’s a step in the right direction, but there is a lot of work that needs to be done here,” Mahealani duPont said.

Anyone who is struggling is encouraged to reach out for help. As the saying goes, ‘We are all in this together.’

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