Finding a gap in my chosen area of research for my thesis has been very challenging. With 4 pages of resources already stowed away in a Google Doc, I’ve been having trouble finding an area that has yet to be researched. Mental health and the effects that social media has had on the mental health of young adults is a hot topic right now. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve seen a flood of new mental health apps created to either help people meditate or get connected to a therapist. So, I’ve decided to switch gears a little bit and research gaps in digital mental health interventions at higher education institutions.
Since I started my career at NYU almost 8 years ago, I’ve noticed that there has been an abundance of negative feedback about the NYU Wellness Exchange through articles published on Washington Square News, an independent NYU student newspaper, and through satirical content on Instagram. And I’ve always asked myself ‘why’. What about this resource is making it unreliable and disliked by NYU students? Before I began my career at NYU, I was aware of their long history of suicide. Once I started my career, I soon learned about the chilling history of the NYU Bobst Library and its long history of suicides. You can read more about its history in “Bobst Library’s Enduring History of Suicide”.
On the NYU Wellness Exchange, Isha Ganguli, a senior at the College of Arts and Sciences is quoted saying:
At first they’re really vigilant in booking you every 10 or so days, like, keeping up with you,” she said. “Then, as soon as the slightest thing changes and you’re doing a little bit better, the communication drops off and you don’t hear from them for a while, so then you lose interest.
After every crisis that happens at NYU, ranging from suicide to being groped by a stranger at Washington Square Park, an email about the NYU Wellness Exchange is sure to follow. Literally, it’s about the wellness exchange and how it exists. However, based on my preliminary research NYU has an issue with accountability and offering long-term care. I get the feeling that NYU and probably other universities and colleges, want to strictly be a school and nothing else, even though they offer housing and dining and provide other resources for basic needs. Self-care is a basic need. Mental health is a basic need. Whether universities and colleges choose to acknowledge this or not, they have a responsibility to care for their students in ways that have since evolved.
I must be clear, however, that my goal is not to criticize NYU. But if I have an opportunity to help our students, I will. I don’t know how I will specifically address these issues, but the gap that I will research for my thesis is how to design accountable, personable, and intimate experiences in digital mental health interventions at higher education institutions.
If the NYU Wellness Exchange, in particular, isn’t working for students, I want to understand why and how we can help students feel more supported by NYU. I also plan to look at other schools and their mental health resources and talk to as many people as I can.