Demand for mental health care growing at Canadian universities

Posted on June 6th, 2017

Demand for mental health care at universities across Canada, including UBC, is growing according to a recent investigation by the Toronto Star and Ryerson School of Journalism.

But some students say the university’s services aren’t enough.

Despite that, the report revealed that many Canadian universities have significantly increased mental health funding, although some are struggling to meet growing the demand. 

Cheryl Washburn, director of counselling services at UBC, said in an email that from the 2014-2015 school year to the 2015-2016 school year, funding for counselling services has gone up by over 30 per cent. 

She says more students are being referred to counselling, in part due to university campaigns aimed at decreasing the stigma of seeking help for such an illness.

“We would hypothesize that over time the stigma is decreasing, and it is enabling people to reach out to seek help,” Washburn said.

While there have been complaints from students of long wait times, she says the demand is different throughout the year and students will be seen.

“Counselling wait times will vary depending upon demand,” she said.  

Washburn said one of the reasons for the funding increases at UBC is the university initially lacked adequate funding for these services.

“We were very under-resourced for the size of our university,” said Washburn.

UBC president Santa Ono has been open about his own struggles with depression as a student and his current interest in student mental health.

But despite UBC’s investments in mental health care, some students said university services are not enough.

After first going to UBC counselling in 2014, student Ji Youn Kim said she had to wait two weeks to see someone and the student counsellor she was given was not experienced enough to help her.

“It was very obvious, it was by the book. It wasn’t very useful,” she said.

Later that school year, Kim attempted suicide three times. She survived, and when she came back to school later that month, she was able to see a counsellor that same day but realized she needed more advanced care than what UBC could offer.

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