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Shared Perspectives, a joint publication on mental health, is the first time that all five organizations–the Council of Alberta University Students; Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance; New Brunswick Student Alliance; StudentsNS; and Canadian Alliance of Student Associations–have formally collaborated, representing almost 300,000 post-secondary student voices through this publication.
It is easy to silo away post-secondary education within the confines of our provincial borders. Our hope with this project is to shed light on an issue with which all students regardless of jurisdiction have to deal. The mental health of students is a unifying theme and priority for student organisations such as ours’ across the country.
Unlike some more-easily defined issues being tackled by student organisations, such as high debt levels and youth employment, mental health-related problems remain somewhat of a taboo subject for legislators and university officials alike.
Traditional lack of awareness and a societal inability to separate mental illness from physical ailments has contributed to a grossly underfunded and poorly-equipped postsecondary sector that, while well-intentioned, has failed to grasp the magnitude of the mental health challenges facing its students.
As another generation of students graduate and enter the workforce, empowered by the proliferation of mental health literacy tools to raise awareness and reduce stigma, mental health-related problems that were previous ignored or suppressed are rapidly coming to the forefront of national discussions.
The decision to work collaboratively on this project comes in response to the recognition that a viable solution to this problem will require a collective effort from student organizations and stakeholders across the country. One of the fundamental tenets of our healthcare system is the universality of care. The same principle should apply to mental health; adequate access to services and care should not be dependent on where a student chooses to study.
Among the limited successes and continued challenges this project highlights, we hope that the variance of measures to address this growing student issue across provincial lines can serve as inspiration for future innovative responses to access problems.
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