Mental Health


(For a timeline of important events related to the issue, read this.)

Mental wellness is a defining component of the second point in the Strategic Plan for the College’s growth. The College has authorized 3 Reviews on mental health in 5 years (see Resources below) and the topic was a major concern of the 2008-2009 re-accrediation self-study (accesible only to Grinnellians). Despite the administration’s ostensible concern for our mental well-being, such concern has mainly been intellectual. In the re-accreditation self-study the College highlighted the importance of mental well being in fostering a campus atmosphere conducive to our growth as leaders in social justice. However, the recommendations of the latest review, particularly that of creating a robust in-house mental health service have been sidelined. Student Affairs’s most recent plans were to continue contracting with Poweshiek County Mental Health Services (PCMHS) on a year-to-year basis while beginning to hire our own staff. However, that plan was not included in the latest budget. Even so, a gradual transition from outsourcing services to PCMHS to full in-house provision of mental health services could negatively affect students’ overall care and confidentiality. The time of commissioning studies is over and the time for comprehensive and considerate action is now.

Here are the facts


“The 2007 ACHA/NCHA reveals that in the year prior to completing the survey 15.8% of Grinnell students ‘seriously considered attempting suicide.’ That compares to 9% in the reference group.” (External Review 2008)


On almost all acounts, Grinnellians experience mental distress more than students at other colleges.

Students report: Grinnell Other Sm. Colleges National
Stress 38.8% 36.3% 34.1%
Sleep difficulties 28.7% 26.5% 26.1%
Depression/anxiety/seasonal affective disorder 27.2% 20.0% 16.3%
Concern for a troubled friend or family member 24.5% 18.9% 19.0%
Relationship difficulty 21.1% 16.8% 16.4%
Internet use/computer games 19.0% 17.4% 16.3%
Drug use 5.2% 2.6% 3.0%
Eating disorder/problem 1.5% 1.5% 1.4%

(Review of Mental Health Services for Grinnell College Students November 2007 – September 2008)


Study breaks aren’t a sustainable solution to emotional well-being. Undoubtedly they are useful, but are not a comprehensive method of promoting mental wellness.


In practicing self-governance, we ultimately face “helper fatigue.” We are proud of the help we provide to our friends and fellow students, but it exhausts us because we are not mental health professionals. Many of the difficulties we face demand serious engagement beyond peer support.


Mental health is a disability rights issue. Everyone deserves equal access to support and to be accomodated in academic situations and otherwise.

Our Demands

We demand that Student Affairs immediately fully fund and implement all the reccomendations of the external review of mental health services that was conducted in the Spring of 2008, most notably the establishment of an in-house counseling center. These must be re-introduced into the budget for the 2009-2010 Fiscal Year to be approved at the meeting of the Board of Trustee the weekend of April 23rd, 2009.


Internal Review of Mental Health Services 2007-8

2008 External Review of Mental Health Services

2004 External Review of Mental Health Services

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