It takes a whole village to raise a healthy mind

Every year as September rolls around, students from across Canada prepare for another year of school. For many, this involves moving away from the comfort and security of home and toward many new stressors.

The unfamiliarity of student life, a demanding academic workload and new social environments can loom over us all. As a result of all these stresses, undergraduate students have been identified as the highest-risk group for mental illness, according to Maclean’s.

The number of university students diagnosed with mental illness has been steadily increasing. Approximately 25 per cent of students experience mental health problems, with the most frequent diagnoses including stress, anxiety and depression.

Suicide rates on university campuses are also on the rise. A recent study by the Globe and Mail that surveyed 30,000 post-secondary students from across Canada indicated that approximately 9.5 per cent of university students in Canada have seriously considered taking their own lives.

With issues of mental health more prominent now than ever, various universities have sought to provide more resources for their students.

Schools  are recruiting mental health professionals and incorporating their services into on-campus health centres. Different training program services are provided to staff and faculty members at many Canadian campuses.

These programs seek to equip university employees with the necessary skills to deal with emergency situations and identify at-risk individuals with whom they might be in contact on a daily basis.

The implementation of these programs creates a support system available for all students in need of mental health care and demonstrates a collaborative, campus-wide effort.

At Mt. A, private and confidential counseling services are provided between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Evening after-hours clinics will be available soon. A psychiatrist, who will be joining the mental health team later in November, can be visited with a physician’s referral and will be covered under a provincial medical card.

On campus, certain university staff and faculty members have been trained to make up a support group known as the Student of Concern Case Team (SOCCT). They have been established as a resource for individuals to anonymously identify students who they consider potentially at-risk due to mental illness.

For students interested in being educated on mental health support on campus, mental health first aid training is available through the Mt. A disability advisor, Matthew Kalichuk.

Positive mental health cannot be built by a medical clinic alone. Community support, education and working to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness are crucial in influencing and encouraging the wellbeing of healthy minds. Working together to combat mental illness contributes to the creation of healthier and more functional communities.

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