Working together to support student mental health

Partnerships and new beginnings

Let's talk about student mental health.

Providing effective support for mental health challenges is a top priority on our post-secondary campuses.

Students’ challenges have become increasingly complex and the demand for services has grown.

Given that the onset of mental health issues typically coincides with the age of entry to post-secondary education, colleges are often the first point of contact for students in crisis. This is one reason why Colleges Ontario partnered with the College Student Alliance, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and the Council of Ontario Universities to co-develop a strategy. This student-centered strategy is outline in a report entitled In it Together, Taking Action on Student Mental Health.

From 2010-11 to 2015-16, the number of college students who self-identified as having a psychiatric disorder increased by 85 per cent. Responding effectively to students by connecting them to the right care at the right time is a top priority at our province’s colleges.

In the years since the In it Together report, colleges have had success in better integrating campus supports with those available in the community and providing students with resources to help them manage their mental health and wellness.

Together with their community partners and the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health, colleges have enhanced mental health education on campuses to reduce stigma and build students’ resiliency in preparation for life after graduation.

Such early interventions on campus not only save lives but alleviate pressures on Ontario’s health-care system.

It’s estimated that every $1 spent on mental health and addictions treatment saves $7 in health costs and $30 in lost productivity.

Moreover, failing to adequately address mental health issues at the college level could put students at risk of not completing their studies, which would ultimately diminish their chances of success when they enter the workforce.

The exponential growth in mental health concerns on campus is making it increasingly challenging to provide the range of services our students need. As these pressures grow, there is a clear need for more provincial investments.

In our submission to the province for this year’s provincial budget, we’re urging the government to invest $75 million over three years to strengthen mental health supports on our campuses.

This will help ensure that students, regardless of geographic location, have access to gender and culturally sensitive mental health services and supports that are timely, effective and flexible, and provided in a safe and comfortable environment.

We will also continue to work with student leaders, health-care providers, our university partners, the government and others to explore proactive approaches to a comprehensive, holistic approach to mental health.

Working together, we can make a difference to every student who needs our help.

Linda Franklin

Linda Franklin is the past president and CEO of Colleges Ontario, the advocacy association for Ontario’s 24 colleges.