Part of larger mental health initiative
By Naomi Ambrose, Staff Writer
Post-secondary students hoping for more mental health support may soon have their wishes become a reality. According to a press release from the BC government, there are upcoming plans to launch a virtual mental health service that includes mental health counselling and additional resources for post-secondary students.
Duane Seibel, Douglas College’s Director of Student Affairs and Services, shared his thoughts about the upcoming service in an email interview with the Other Press.
“[I’m] excited to have additional supports for our students.” said Seibel. “The announcement is very recent,” and he “eagerly await[s] more detail on how this service will roll out and how it will enhance the support currently available to students.”
Seibel also said, “I hope that the new provincial program will […] provide seamless and coordinated support whenever a student might require it.”
Tanysha Klassen, a fourth-year BA Psych Honours student, shared her perspective about the new service.
“It’s an especially important initiative in our current climate as mental health is becoming less and less stigmatized, which is resulting in more and more students looking for these services,” said Klassen in an email interview with the Other Press.
When asked whether she believes that the initiative is enough, Klassen—who’s also the Director for External Relations for the Douglas Students’ Union—added, “Although this initiative is important […] we [have] about as much [information] as everybody else does.”
Klassen further explained that the DSU has yet to hear the specifics of an implementation date or program details. “There really is no concrete plan set out. From our understanding, this announcement was a request for a proposal and the government is now waiting for organizations to propose their own plans for this program.
“Furthermore, until the proposal is chosen, we don’t really have any judgement to pass on whether or not it is enough; at this point, the government showing support on this issue is a great first step and we will be awaiting the announcement of the successful proposal,” said Klassen.
The release also included additional information to further explain the reason for the 24/7 mental health support. According to the press release, the 15-to-24 age group is more likely than any other age group to report mental illness and/or substance-use disorders.
Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, shared her thoughts about the significance of this new initiative.
“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 Mark via the press release.
Mark also added, “Presently, there is no provincewide resource available to post-secondary students and where there are resources, students often lack after-hours access.”
With regards to Mark’s comments about transitioning into post-secondary life, Klassen had some thoughts to share about her experience during this period of flux.
“For me personally, my transition to post-secondary was reasonably smooth. However, having more services in place is always a benefit for all students,” said Klassen.
To further elaborate on the urgency of the service, the release included results of a 2016 National College Health Association survey among Canadian post-secondary students. According to the findings from the survey, 44.4 percent of students felt it hard to function because of depression at one point in the previous year. Thirteen percent had contemplated suicide while 2.1 percent had attempted suicide. The findings also stated that 18.4 percent of post-secondary students had been “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety.
The 24/7 mental health support service is part of a series of upcoming mental health initiatives for post-secondary students that are expected to be launched this year. The release did not indicate when this new support service would be launched.