“Unprecedented demand for mental health services among young people today is raising alarm among medical experts and transforming the financial plans of universities, businesses and governments”
Stories emerge about the mental health of Canadian post-secondary students
46 per cent of Ontario post-secondary students reported feeling so depressed in the
previous year it was difficult to function, according to a spring 2016 survey
The Globe and Mail reported in September 2016 that one in five Canadian post-secondary students are depressed and anxious or battling other mental health issues. Those were among the findings of a national survey of colleges and universities that finds more students are reporting being in distress than three years ago.
Mental health can be defined as: “The capacities of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual well-being that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections, and personal dignity” (Government of Canada, 2006)
The CBC ran a story during the same period titled Ontario campus counsellors say they’re drowning in mental health needs. It quoted results from a survey of more than 25,000 students attending Ontario colleges and universities in the spring of 2016. The survey suggests rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as suicide attempts are up from its first survey in 2013. Among the major findings:
- 65 per cent of students reported experiencing overwhelming anxiety in the previous year (up from 57 per cent in 2013)
- 46 per cent reported feeling so depressed in the previous year it was difficult to function (up from 40 per cent in 2013)
- 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide in the previous year (up from 10 per cent in 2013)
- 2.2 per cent reported attempting suicide in the last year (up from 1.5 per cent in 2013)
- Nine per cent reported attempting suicide sometime in the past (not restricted to last year)
A Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation sounds alarm
“Unprecedented demand for mental health services among young people today
is raising alarm among medical experts and transforming the financial plans
of universities, businesses and governments” [Toronto Star]
Unprecedented demand for mental health services among young people today is raising alarm among medical experts and transforming the financial plans of universities, businesses and governments, a Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation has found. The investigation was published on the front page of The Toronto Star on May 29, 2017. It quotes McMaster University psychiatrist Dr. Catharine Munn as saying, “We have lineups out the door and down the hall. Despite hiring more counsellors, we’re drowning.”
All students experience difficulties from time to time in their academic programs. While many students are able to address these concerns as they emerge, other students continue to struggle. — Canadian Mental Health Association
The reports conducted interviews with a dozen leading experts across the country, and several issues were identified that may be contributing factors:
- The competitive job market means that a university degree is no guarantee of a career, leading increasingly stressed students to seek out second or third degrees to set themselves apart.
- Changes in parenting styles, where parents tend to do more for their children than generations past, can leave youth ill-prepared to navigate the world as they set out on their own and less capable of accepting small failures.
- Societal changes in how we communicate — via social media in the world of 24/7 Internet — can also lead to new pressures not faced by previous generations, say experts. “There is concern around cyberbullying, spending a lot of time on the computer, and limiting the actual social support from person-to-person contact.”
The University of British Columbia has seen an 86-per-cent increase in its counselling services expenditures, from just over $1 million in 2010 to $1.9 million last year, according to the article. “The number of staff we had was completely inadequate for the size and complexity of our student population, and we really needed to be able to bolster that,” said Cheryl Washburn, director of counselling services.
We speak with Cheryl Washburn, director of counselling services at University of British Columbia.
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