Ensuring that you have good mental health is key to having success in university. Some students at Memorial University believe that accessibility to these services on campus is an ongoing issue.
Matt Barter, the Disabilities representative for Memorial University Students union (MUNSU), feels there are many problems on campus pertaining to mental health services such as a lack of funding from the university, not having access to certain services during the term, and support not being provided for family from the counselling centre.
“It is of the utmost importance for a university to have good mental health services. There is no better time to get treatment than while students are enrolled in university as the service is on campus where they go for school each day,” said Barter.
“It is important that we recognize that mental illnesses can affect studies the same way that physical illnesses can. Not seeking help or speaking about mental illness due to stigma or for fear of judgement by others is a barrier we need to collectively challenge.”
This past year, MUNSU did a survey as part of their Mental Health Matters campaign. On that survey, 85.9 per cent of Memorial students felt overwhelmed by the load of school and work they had, 34 per cent felt so depressed that it was difficult to function, and 7.8 per cent considered committing suicide.
Barter said he is dissatisfied with the current model with the Counselling Centre. Some of these problems include the offline counselling system, time and support constraints, and the centre not being opened on evenings and weekends.
“This is problematic in many ways because if a student is comfortable with a counsellor and if it took them a long time to build that relationship, not allowing them to continue sessions with the counsellor could result in all of the work being undone,” said Barter.
“The current system the university has stating that students have to be a registered is a regressive approach and it’s time that the University showed compassion for students and provide more funding. It is time for the University to better consult students on the issues they have with the mental health services offered and ask what they think it should be and to provide funding to make that vision a reality.”
Currently, Memorial University is one of the only universities in North America that offers same-day service and open-ended support for all types of health and mental health issues, including stress, anxiety and depression.
Dr. Peter Cornish, associate professor and director of the Counselling and Wellness Centre, said that most students have diagnoses of binge drinking at a total of 55 students, 19 suffered academic impairment, and approximately 70 students had emotional grief.
Currently, the Counselling Centre has one part-time psychiatrist who assesses students within 4-5 weeks, which is approximately 12 months earlier than the public system. Cornish said that consulting psychiatric services are an important part of their stepped care model, but he feels there is currently no need for additional psychiatric support.
“Mental health is an important topic to talk about because most mental health issues can be resolved within a supportive campus community without professional support,” said Cornish.
“When more people talk about mental health, they learn how to be supportive.”
The Counselling Centre ran the MoodCheck challenge last March and got results from thousands of students. Cornish said that two new mental health promotion programs will reach the entire campus population this coming winter and the Counselling Centre will also be piloting a wellness skills program that is built into the curriculum of several courses.
“Student groups, staff, faculty and the administration are more aligned than ever in this effort and I am hopeful that we will see the academic rewards of these collaborative efforts over the next few years,“ said Cornish.