One in four interactions with Medlinks is related to wellness and mental health, as opposed to physical ailments, according to Medlinks president Frances K. Chen ’13.
MedLinks, students who serve as dorm-based “liaisons between undergraduate students and MIT Medical,” according to the MedLinks website, are trained to answer health questions from students, dispense over the counter medications, and help direct students to other MIT health resources.
Held over a two-day retreat in the fall, Medlinks training covers both physical and mental issues. According to Gregory Baker, MedLinks coordinator at MIT Medical, training covers helping students identify and manage sources of stress, although it does not delve into different responses for specific types of stress, such as academic stress.
“One of the things we really stress in MedLinks is talking to people,” Chen said. “If someone comes to us for a Tylenol or a Band-Aid, we don’t just give it to them — first, we talk to them to find out what they need it for.” According to Chen, a full evening of the training retreat is spent teaching MedLinks to be comfortable responding conversationally to student troubles and starting a discussion with the student.
Although MedLinks are well-trained in talking to students, they are not medical professionals and do not provide diagnosis or counseling for mental health issues. Rather, they first talk to the student and then direct him or her to other MIT resources, if necessary.
“If someone came to me worried about grades or classes, I would want to hear what’s stressing them out, class-wise and otherwise,” Daniel Mokhtari ’14, a MedLink in Maseeh Hall, said in an email. “After hearing what was going on, I would try to discuss ways that the individual could help alleviate some of the pressure they felt.”
The resources that MedLinks direct students to for pressure-related issues include Student Support Services (S^3), MIT Mental Health, the student’s advisor, and MIT Community Wellness.
According to Chen, MedLinks are also trained to follow up with students after a short period to see if their issue has improved.
For more information and a list of all MedLinks, check their website at https://medlinks.mit.edu/.