KSA seeks to increase mental health support on campus

Student Services VP Alison Gonzales discusses accessibility to resources at KPU

Danielle George / The Runner

Since last summer, Kwantlen Polytechnic University students struggling with their mental health have mostly relied on the Peer Support Program, supported by the university and the Kwantlen Student Association. Options for treatment within the program include one-on-one meetings with volunteers, referrals for on and off-campus resources, mental health awareness events, peer-led workshops and wellness programming.

According to its website, the program’s primary goal “is to enhance the social, emotional, and academic experiences of students at KPU. Its secondary goals are to promote wellness within the university community and to enhance student-to-student support.”

The KSA also strives to assist struggling students by encouraging physical activity with Active KSA and involvement with on-campus initiatives such as Stress Relief Week.

Despite of these efforts, a report from the KSA council’s March 3 agenda states that, “the mental health aspect is not very accessible to students at the time being.”

“We would like to consider expanding mental health practitioners on the student plan to include Clinical Counsellors, Marital and Family Therapists, and a few other mental health professional types,” says the report.

As it stands, only the services provided by Registered Psychologists and Masters of Social Work are reimbursed by the KSA. Unfortunately, those professionals are often exceptionally busy, meaning they cannot always be available for students when needed. In order to resolve this issue, the report suggests that other workers could be welcomed onto KPU campuses. Some possible titles on the list include registered clinical counsellors, clinical social workers, members of British Columbia Association of Marriage and Family Therapy, and Canadian certified counsellors.

“We review all of our programs on an ongoing basis to make sure we are always offering the best services possible to students. Last summer, while attending [the Gallivan-hosted CACUSS conference], we realized there was a potential add-on to our health plan for even better mental health access and we looked into bringing that system on,” says Allison Gonzales, the KSA’s Vice President of student services. “We identified that the access to our services was not ideal for all students. Therefore, by casting a wider net, we can ensure that more students can access services that work for them.”

To cover the costs of hiring more workers, the KSA “will have to either pull from reserves or increase the fee (within our allowed limits and without going to referendum),” she says. The repercussions of financing the amendments to Kwantlen’s Healthy Universities’ Framework are still being determined.

As well as increasing accessibility for students, the KSA is hoping to improve its mental health resource plan for staff, which was discussed further at a special meeting of council on March 24.

Additional details will be released “as soon as possible,” according to Gonzales. “We are still doing more research into different options and we are also looking into the cost of this and how we can make this sustainable,” she says. “It’s such an important topic that we want to ensure it’s done right.”

Students seeking help can either drop into the KSA office or send an email to peersupport@kusa.ca for more information.