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Students and Administrators Agree to Framework for Comprehensive Mental Health Reform at UPenn
Jerry Cahn, PhD, JD - Trusted Advisor - Coach to Leaders Jerry Cahn, PhD, JD - Trusted Advisor - Coach to Leaders
Philadelphia, PA
Friday, September 18, 2015

Photo by Ilana Wurman, The Daily Pennsylvanian

On September 10 – after 7 suicides in the past two years – campus leaders joined with the mothers of students who have died by suicide to call for comprehensive mental health reform.

After a silent march through campus organized on National Suicide Awareness Day, the Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative delivered a petition to University President Amy Gutmann calling for immediate changes to university policy, such as assigning students designated wellness counselors and allowing for anonymous scheduling of counseling appointments.

Today, representatives of the Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative negotiated with Dr. Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum, CAPS Representatives and others members of the University of Pennsylvania administration on the terms of comprehensive mental health reform.

During our meeting, we negotiated a set of compromises with follow-up deadlines. The Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative looks forward to the implementation of the initiatives that we have agreed upon. We will stay active in advocating for them.

Members of the Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative commit to holding the University accountable to these commitments and vigilantly advocating for comprehensive reform. If these recommendations get lost in administrative bureaucracy and these deadlines become an excuse to postpone action, we reserve the right to advocate using alternative means to produce reform, including: protests, media appearances, and visual presentations on Locust Walk.

Below are our initial proposals and the University's commitments.

Overview of Proposals & Commitments

  1. Designated Counselor
    • Proposal: All students should be designated a wellness counselor by November 2015.
    • Commitment: The administration will make a decision on whether or not to appoint wellness counselors for only freshmen, as a pilot program, by January 2016. Implementation would begin in August 2016.
  2. Anonymous Counseling:
    • Proposal: The University should provide all students with the option of anonymous counseling by December 2015.
    • Commitment: Refused to do so.
  3. Online Scheduling:
    • Proposal: The University should allow students to schedule CAPS consultations online by January 2016.
    • Commitment: The University will review their options and make a decision by November 2016. No commitment has been made as to the implementation date.
  4. Ongoing Communication:
    • Proposal: The University should send periodic emails/newsletters discussing mental heath issues on campus and inform students about available resources. 
    • Commitment: Refused to do so.
  5. CAPS Best Practices:
    • Proposal: The University should 1) Engage an independent review of mental health policies for students including at-risk groups (e.g. athletes) and 2) Publicize a uniform mental health leave of absence policy for all students by February 2016.
    • Commitment: 1) The University will invite the Jed Foundation to conduct an independent review and will publish the results. 2) No commitment was made to provide at-risk students with special programming. 3) The University committed to publicizing a uniform leave of absence policy for all schools by January 2016.
  6. NSO Event:
    • Proposal: The University should conduct two CAPS events during New Student Orientation: one for all freshmen in Irvine Auditorium and one for parents, where family members of students who died by suicide may present about their experiences. These events will occur beginning with NSO 2016.
    • Commitment: VPUL and NSO will review the idea and a decision on this issue will be made by January 2016.


We will monitor the University's actions and report on their progress in the coming months. If you have any questions, please contact us at: ReformMentalHealthAtPenn@gmail.com



Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiative


Notable Signatories:

Katherine Hamlett, Mother of Timothy Hamlett

Linda Douglas, Mother of Theodore Reed

Cheryl Radabah, Mother of Kara Radabah

Marie Bartos, Wife of Stephen Milkovits

Katherine Chang, Housemate of Amanda Hu

Cynthia Caron, Non-Profit Founder at Lost N Missing


Devanshi Mehta, President, Active Minds

Samantha Stavis, Co-President, CogWell

Michael Shaid, Co-President, CogWell

Mary Sun, President, The MedX Program

Imran Cronk, President, Wharton Undergraduate Healthcare Club

Kamesh Krishnamurth, President Biomedical Graduate Student Organization


Jesus Perez, President, Class of 2016

Darren Tomasso, President, Class of 2017

Vadim Ordovsky-Tanaevsky, President, Class of 2018

Matt Mantica, President, Daily Pennsylvanian

David Cahn, DSF Chairman, Undergraduate Assembly


Jacob Wallenberg, Chairman, Inter-Fraternity Council

Jordyn Jones, Chairwoman, Panhellenic Council

Megan Yan, Co-Chair, Penn Consortium of Undergraduate Women

Jin Kim, Chair, Asian Pacific Student Coalition

Gina Dukes, Co-Chair, SOUL

Jamal Taylor, Recruitment Chair, SOUL

Alyssa Chang, President, UPenn Transfer Student Association


Change.org: 200+ Signatories, including:

  • Rachel Romeo: Even the most accomplished, confident, and seemingly happy students struggle behind their game face, including myself when I was at Penn. Please don't wait until it is too late for more of our community members.
  • Will Bozian: Tim Hamlett was one of teammates and Madison Holleran was a close friend of mine. Now as a freshman student athlete I understand the pressure they were under to perform well in the classroom and on the track. We should never feel alone when we need help.
  • Isabela Umana: I go to Penn. I've been depressed at Penn... and I know how it feels. Things need to change within our community and I feel that the school administration has lacked proper managing skills about this prevalent issue. A human life is more valuable than any GPA, internship, or leave of absence. I feel that Penn's administration should be aware of that. They should organize wellness events for students, and provide a cohesive college life experience. Not an absent, rough and aloof one. Connect to the students... let Penn be a pleasant campus experience.. not a concentration camp
  • Tara Saunders: I'm a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner and leader who treat young people who suffers with depression.
  • Sean Collins: I'm signing because everyone deserves mental health. We have lost 2 members of the track and field team and 5 other members of the Penn community. No school should be able to stand up and say that any student death is acceptable and not fight for the best interests of our students. Let's stand up and keep our classmates, teammates, and friends alive, safe, and happy.
  • Erin Tinney: We have lost too many amazing people.
  • Lauren Murphey: "People don't die from suicide, they die from sadness." For Madison.
  • Martha Olson: I'm the mother of a recent alumnus and am appalled at the lack of substantive action taken by the university to address this crisis on campus.
  • Cameron Stadlin: I lost a classmate to suicide
  • Katherine Chang: Amanda Hu was one of my best friends and housemates. The experience that we went through last year is one that no student should ever have, but I'm sure it still cannot compare to Amanda's. While Penn has improved with regards to mental health, there is still so much to be done.
  • Sydney Schaedel: Dealing with CAPS shouldn't be another stressor for someone who already feels they need help. Right now, it is. With these changes, it won't be.
  • Josef Hoenzsch: I am signing because I have depression and anxiety. I take an SSRI (antidepressant) for this and have taken other medications in the past. I see a psychologist every week. There are days where I can't even get out of bed. I love my CAPS psychologist, but I hate that every time I call to schedule an appointment, any time I need more help, any time something changes, they have to remind me "This is only for temporary help". I don't think my issues are going to resolve themselves as quickly as it seems CAPS wants them to. I am signing because my mental health is the most important thing and I've been in dark, scary places because of it. I'm signing because change needs to happen on this campus - I'm signing because I don't want a suicide that could have been prevented to happen again on this campus. I'm writing because I struggle every day to have the will to live and it took far too much effort on my own part to get the help I needed.

Hamlett-Reed Mental Health Initiatve

University of Pennsylvania



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