Contributed by the College Student Alliance and Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance
Ontario’s students, colleges and universities are calling on the provincial government to take immediate action on the growing problem of student mental health, with an integrated strategy that begins in Kindergarten and continues through high school, postsecondary life and adulthood.
A joint report released on November 2 calls for a “whole of community” approach by government, health-care providers, community agencies, student associations and postsecondary institutions – including mandatory curriculum to teach resiliency in young people, an early-warning system throughout all levels of education, counselling, and expanded use of technology. All of this would be provided at no cost to students, whether they live on- or off-campus.
“Student mental health is a growing concern on postsecondary campuses across the country,” said Andrew Clubine, President of the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA). “Students are calling on the province to take an integrated and comprehensive approach to improving mental wellness supports so that they can succeed both on- and off-campus.
The new report, entitled “In It Together: Taking Action on Student Mental Health” was released by four groups representing the province’s 45 colleges and universities and more than 220,000 students.
In the report, the four partners - the College Student Alliance, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, Colleges Ontario, and the Council of Ontario Universities – say providing effective support for student mental health is one of the most pressing issues on college and university campuses today.
Postsecondary institutions have made addressing it a priority, but they can’t meet the challenge alone.
Other recommendations in the report include:
• An update to Ontario’s Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy, to recognize postsecondary students as a distinct group;
• Clearly defined roles across four Ontario government ministries to ensure no service gaps;
• Close working relationships between postsecondary institutions and local health-care and community agencies, to develop and implement a plan to help students with mental health concerns;
• Free mental health care for students – on- and off-campus – through increased services not currently funded by OHIP;
• Government investment in transition programming for high school students as they prepare to enter postsecondary education.
Seventy-five percent of mental health disorders first appear among people aged 18-24.
A National College Health Assessment survey of college and university students reported that, last year:
– 46 percent of students reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function, up from 40 percent in 2013;
– 65 percent of students reported overwhelming anxiety, up from 58 percent;
– 14 percent of students had seriously considered suicide, up from 11 percent.