Under the new policy, students facing a mental crisis can take a leave of absence instead of being forced to withdraw. “When they feel ready,” they can then return to classes with their standing in tact, school officials said.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Yale College dean Pericles Lewis said the university wants “to make clear to students their first priority in dealing with mental health problems should be mental health. And obviously we want people to be able to continue their education.”
The new policy reverses many of the practices that had been in place, including allowing students to retain their health insurance while on leave and access to campus resources. It also allows students to drop their course load to as low as two classes if they require significant time for treatment and if their petition is approved.
The changes also make the process for returning from a medical leave of absence simpler, requiring only a letter from their clinician and a personal statement explaining why they left, the treatment they received and why they feel ready to return.
The policy change is a welcome relief for students who had previously been forced to withdraw and lose access to therapy and health care at a time when they needed it most. Back in November, the Washington Post interviewed dozens of students who shared they felt forced to withdraw from the university after expressing mental health struggles to administrators. Many reported that withdrawing actually worsened the situation, leading other students to avoid seeking help for their struggles for fear of exile.
Yale’s decision is a tremendous step in helping young adults holistically, and given that Gen Z is the largest generation to report they’re struggling with mental health, we’d love to see more of it.