Mental Health at Chicago Booth

By Reid Tileston 15’

Last Spring I was sitting with two other co-chairs of a student group, we were commenting about a public speaking competition that we had seen and how we thought that the most compelling speech had been a personal story from a then second year about struggling through depression and insomnia while at Booth. It was at that point that all three of us admitted to each other that we had sought counseling since coming to business school.

Business school is supposed to be a fun time. Often described as a two-year vacation from the real world, complete with sarcastic Facebook comments from friends and past co-workers about how life in business school is tough when you post a picture from an exotic vacation. Behind all the TNDCs, fun travel, and frosty beverages there is the under-discussed topic of mental health.

A common reason people seek treatment is recruitment anxiety; however, the issues run the gamut. John McPherrin, the Counseling liaison to Chicago Booth and 13 year veteran therapist at University of Chicago, has seen it all: “International student adjustment, relationship issues, marriage challenges, navigating sexual orientation in the business world, and career challenges.” While Director of Academic Services Christine Gramhofer notes that, “academic progress pressures” are a common occurrence as well.

In terms of seasonality, McPherrin notes that, “Winter Quarter has been busier historically; however, the trend is to flattening out.” For a little historical perspective, McPherrin remembers the winter and spring of 2008 being the busiest time for Booth students seeking counseling, “2008 was a horrible time. There were a lot of (employer) rescinded job offers as the economy tanked.”

McPherrin notes that Booth has a high number of mental health cases because there are a lot of Booth students; however, adjusted for the size of the program Booth has a lower incidence rate than other University of Chicago Graduate Programs. Is this because Booth students are more mentally resilient than our counterparts? McPherrin does not necessarily think so. He believes that among Booth students there is, “more reluctance, more of a stigma related to mental health. By nature of being type A, Booth students give off the impression that all is OK. This is not always true; underneath there can be a different story. We see a lot of cases where the pressure builds anxiety, which in cases can lead to serious depression.” Which can lead to life altering decisions.  

If you are experiencing these problems or know someone who is, you are encouraged to reach out to Student Counseling Services or talk to someone in the administration at Booth that you connect with. Student Counseling offers intake appointments to help evaluate mental health issues, as well as brief psychotherapy—all free of charge (paid by the Student Life Fee) a free, confidential initial appointment.  If you have coverage through USHIP ship you can get a referral for weekly treatment for $40 per month. If you are not sure where to turn, Advisors in Academic Services play a significant role in helping students find their way to Student Counseling Services.  During any given advising appointment, academic discussions evolve into personal conversations where pain points for students are identified. Often, an advisor can provide tools, strategies, and a level of continued support for the student in their time at Booth. This student/advisor relationship opens the door for referrals to SCS especially when topics of discussion exceed the expertise of the advisor. If you are struggling, a first point of contact at Harper can be Academic Services. If you think that you are alone in dealing with these issues, think again, the university is here to help.

Reid Tileston is a second year at Chicago Booth