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More mental health support coming for post-secondary students

Lorraine Graves   Jan-03-2019

A new initiative to provide mental health support to post-secondary students—the age group that most reports mental health issues—was announced by the provincial government this week.

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A new initiative to provide mental health support to post-secondary students—the age group that most reports mental health issues—was announced by the provincial government this week.

“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

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“Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus. That’s why our government is working to develop a mental-health service that is available to students around the clock, province-wide,” Mark says.

The current system is patchwork at best, with support varying by jurisdiction or even from institution to institution. In some places there are no services at all, while in others there is nothing after-hours. This initiative looks to offer province-wide support for all post-secondary students.

“No one schedules a time when they need support, so it’s good that a service will be available outside of regular hours for students, regardless of where they’re studying in the province. Government is responding to pressure from students to take action on improving mental health services,” says Noah Berson, chairperson of the Alliance of BC Students.

“Expanded mental health services are in demand for post-secondary students in B.C.,” says Aran Armutlu, chair of the British Columbia Federation of Students. “Having more options for counselling and other services available, and having 24/7 access to these services, is a welcome addition to the changes this government is making for students.”

The government plans to have phone, online chat, text and email options for students to access mental health support.

“It’s critical to provide young people with access to the supports they need, where and when they need them,” says Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The use of virtual technology would enable young people from all parts of the province to ask for help once and get help fast.”

Post-secondary students, aged 15-24, are more likely to report mental illness and/or substance-use disorders than other age groups.

The 2016 National College Health Association survey of Canadian post-secondary students found a significant number of students are experiencing mental-health problems and illnesses: 44.4 per cent of surveyed students reported that at some point in the previous 12 months they felt ‘so depressed it was difficult to function;’ 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide; 2.1 per cent had attempted suicide and 18.4 per cent reported being diagnosed or treated by a professional for anxiety.

A copy of the notice to planned procurement is available online.


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