Groups representing Ontario’s 45 colleges and universities are calling for a new strategy to address one of the most pressing issues on campuses today: mental health.
On Nov. 2, Colleges Ontario, the College Student Alliance, the Council of Ontario Universities, and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance launched a joint report called “In it Together,” calling for an integrated mental health strategy that begins in kindergarten and continues through high school, postsecondary, and adulthood. It focuses on 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, expanded use of technology – all at no cost to students.
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At Niagara College, director of Student Services Lianne Gagnon views the announcement is good news for postsecondary students.
“Niagara College recognizes that student mental health and well-being are essential to achieving academic success and to living a health and fulfilling life,” she said. “Niagara College has experienced a significant increase in demand for services related to student mental health. As well, a gap in the early identification of postsecondary students with mental health issues exists, particularly for youth who have been supported by community agencies or in their secondary school education.
“Niagara College is committed to finding solutions within the college system, alongside students and our community.”
NC’s draft mental health strategy, “Supporting Student Mental Health at Niagara College: A Systemic Framework with Strategies of Prevention, Partnerships and Practices” was approved by the board of governors in 2016. The College’s approach in supporting a mental healthy campus community adopts the conceptual framework found in the 2013 Post-Secondary Mental Health: Guide to a Systemic Approach. The College has also adopted the Ontario Human Rights Commission guidelines to ensure that students with disabilities – including mental health disabilities — are provided equal access to their postsecondary education.
NC has already taken steps to provide integrated health, wellness and accessibility services to students by offering a multidisciplinary team of professional counsellors, registered nurses and contract physicians to support student mental health, offering services in one location at each campus, said Gagnon.
The new strategy would further reinforce what NC is currently doing, she noted, by creating more opportunities to work extensively with community partners and the Niagara Health System with the goal of establishing easier access to emergency health care, patient treatment and additional community mental health services for students 24-7.
– 75% 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% of students reported feeling so depressed it was difficult to function, up from 40% in 2013;
- 65% of students reported overwhelming anxiety, up from 58%; and
- 14% of students had seriously considered suicide, up from 11%.