B.C. to Offer Post-Secondary Students 24/7 Mental Health Support

The service will supplement similar resources available at colleges and universities across the province

(flickr/BC NDP)

According to a press release from the B.C. government, college and university students across the province will soon have access to mental health support services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on—and off—campus,” Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark said in the release. “That’s why our government is working to develop a mental-health service that is available to students around the clock, provincewide.”

The announcement comes after years of lobbying from student groups that have made mental health support a major concern in their discussions with the government.

According to the 2016 National College Health Assessment (NCHA), which the government cited in its release, 58.7 per cent of all students surveyed reported experiencing stressors that were “very difficult to handle” within the previous 12 months. The NCHA survey also found that, within the same time frame, a significant number of students had been diagnosed and/or treated by medical professionals for anxiety (20.1 per cent) and depression (15 per cent).

These statistics, of course, do not account for a significant number of mental health issues that go unreported and untreated.

A joint statement attributed to both the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions and the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills, and Training explains that “post-secondary education can come with a number of unique challenges and it’s important that students feel supported.”

“We also know that young people between 15 and 24 years old are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than other age groups,” it reads. “Currently, there is a lack of after-hours and weekend services available to post-secondary students, and some students face long wait times to access campus mental health services.”

A student at KPU who has made use of the university’s counseling services attests to the benefits of having access to mental health support for post-secondary students.

“The sessions [with KPU Counseling] are extremely helpful and convenient,” said the student, who asked to remain anonymous. “Not only are they free for all students [through tuition], they are also conducted by caring professionals who really have the best interests of the students in mind.”  

The university’s counselling services, which sometimes go unutilized by KPU students in need, will soon be subsidized by the government’s provincewide resources.

“The new service is intended to supplement existing services—not replace,” the joint statement explains. “Details for prospective proponents will be outlined in the competitive solicitation that will be posted shortly.”

Representatives from student groups in the province, including the Alliance of B.C. Students and the B.C. Federation of Students, were also quoted in the government’s release as being in favour of the 24/7 service.

“[The] government is responding to pressure from students to take action on improving mental health services,” said Noah Berson, chairperson of the ABCS. “No one schedules a time when they need support, so it’s good that a service will be available outside of regular hours for students regardless of where they’re studying in the province.”

As of now, there is no implementation date set for the government’s service.


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