Study shows post-secondary students prone to face multiple mental health challenges
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
A survey conducted by the Canadian Organization for University and College Health earlier this year revealed some troubling findings about the state of student mental health in this country. The Canadian Press reported that the survey, which included data from over 30,000 respondents, revealed that Canadian post-secondary students “feel stressed, overwhelmed, [and] lonely,” while some “have even considered suicide in the past year.”
It is clear that the transition from high school to college or university can be a turbulent time, especially as this period typically coincides with other significant changes in the lives of young adults, such as dating, finding a career path, and some—if not total—independence from parents or primary caregivers.
The perfect storm of change in the lives of college students may necessitate some formal assistance from people trained to provide objective support and advice; precisely the type of help provided by the counselling services at Douglas College.
Sandra Strate has been with Douglas College for 25 years and is one such counsellor, as well as the department’s coordinator. She says that counselling services offered to students are equipped to tackle “anything that affects a student’s learning performance.”
Strate characterizes counselling as a “problem-solver,” providing students with a mental “tune-up” in times of crisis. “We generally do short-term work,” says Strate. “For students that come in who require longer-term assistance, we find them referrals to outside resources.”
Counselling services are most effective when they provide a perspective that is detached from the student’s situation. In contrast to therapy, counselling allows students to get the information necessary to help themselves during troubling times.
“The work [Douglas College counsellors] do is meant to be educational. We are often the gateway for other resources or assistance that a student needs,” says Strate.
Strate wasn’t sure about the level of student awareness about counselling services offered at Douglas College, but says that counsellors are invited to speak to students enrolled in health sciences programs. For other students, such as university transfer students, she cites that administrative mechanisms, most notably academic probation, are another way students become familiar with the service.
“We’re certainly busy. We see students that are placed on academic probation not as a disciplinary thing, but in an effort to help students get what they want.” Strate went on to say that oftentimes, the solution for students on probation is as simple as identifying whether students are interested in their program or acquiring better habits for time management.
A significant part of the role of counsellors is student advocacy and assisting students maneuver the college system which can oftentimes be overwhelming and complicated. Strate also advises that students facing challenges in their lives that have a detrimental effect on their studies can talk to counsellors about how best to deal with assignment deadlines.
“If it looks like an academic accommodation due to a crisis in a student’s life, we can send documentation to instructors for academic concessions,” Strate said.
The Canadian Organization for University and College Health survey concluded that “90 per cent of students … felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year, while more than 50 per cent said they felt hopeless and 63 per cent said they felt very lonely.”
“Students face so many struggles,” says Strate, who encourages students to take advantage of the help available to them should they need it. “College life is always a leap, regardless of whether a student is coming from high school or another way of living.”
Counselling services are available at both the New Westminster and David Lam campuses. For more information about office hours and locations, check out their page on the college’s website at www.douglas.bc.ca/services/counselling.html