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Ontario Students in need of more accessible mental health resources

Sep 27
80% of 18 to 24 year olds in Ontario are registered in colleges or universities. It is around this age bracket that many mental health concerns first begin to appear. The Ontario University and College Health Association (OUCHA) conducted a survey on over 25, 000 students attending Ontario colleges and universities in spring 2016. The major findings are as follows:
  • 65% of students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety some time within the last 12 months
  • 13.7% seriously considered suicide some time within the last 12 months
  • 46% felt so depressed that it was difficult to function some time within the last 12 months
  • 26.1% of students reported some diagnoses or treatment of a mental health concern within the last year
Counsellors see the constant daily struggles faced by students and are also overwhelmed by the high demand for their services. While a portion of tuition fees go towards funding counselling therapy sessions, students are faced with barriers including stigma, time, and waiting lists for counsellors. At both ends, counsellors and students voice their concern for the lack of effective, comprehensive support services.
Universities and student leaders are looking for ways to fill the gap. The Carleton University Students’ Association funds programs, awareness campaigns, and peer-counselling programs. The University of Guelph provides FeelingBetterNow® as an integral mental health component to students through their insurance plans. This strategy ensures students receive accessible, comprehensive, and reliable mental health resources at their own pace without paying more for them.
Meg Houghton, the president of the OUCHA calls for a provincial strategy and new funding models to support sustainable mental health initiatives that address student population needs. The OUCHA urges for an action plan that involves both education institutions and students to improve the quality and timely service of mental health programs.

OUCHA Proposed Actions: http://oucha.ca/pdf/2016_OUCHA_Media_Advisory.pdf

Kathleen Qu, M.Sc

Kathleen Qu is the Product Manager of FeelingBetterNow. She has a background in global health and policy research. She is an advocate in breaking down barriers for mental health access.