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Task Force chairs emphasize awareness, comfort level

One of the main recommendations of the final MIT Mental Health Task Force Report is to establish residential support teams and departmental liaisons to provide two channels for persons seeking guidance.

The final report also incorporates refinements of the Aug. 29 draft report that grew out of a series of intensive discussions on campus, including a meeting with housemasters and a town meeting sponsored by the Undergraduate Association.

The result is a "much stronger, more clearly stated, better organized report that suggests ways to confront the problems," said Efrat Shavit, a senior. She co-chaired the task force with Dr. Kristine Girard (SB 1986), associate chief of mental health in the MIT Medical Department.

In interviews, the student and the pyschiatrist co-chairs both emphasized the need to increase awareness of mental health services.

"The proposed outreach program should help lower the barriers of resistance" that now exist among students, said Shavit.

Each support team would include a representative from Counseling and Support Services, the Mental Health Service, the Dean's Office, the Chaplaincy and an Emergency Medical Technician. Departmental liaisons may be faculty or staff members.

Dr. Girard believes the report has already "started to increase awareness of mental health issues in the community.

"Hopefully, with Institute support, these initial discussions will lead to substantive changes in attitudes and awareness around mental health in the MIT community and strengthening of the Institute-wide network of support including expansion of the Mental Health Service," she said.

The 20-menber Task Force, which included eight students, recommended that a Standing Committee work closely with administrators and the MIT Medical Strategic Planning Committee to determine the need for additional staffing.

"It is the hope of the Task Force that decisions regarding the optimal staffing levels and an implementation plan would be made for the upcoming fiscal year," said Dr. Girard. "However, it is premature to know the specifics of how many and when."

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