Mt. A’s Wellness Centre has too little to offer

Even without a strike to worry about, many students eventually feel the burden of stress, anxiety, and even depression while they attempt to tackle the many difficult academic tasks and emotional challenges that come with university. However, many students may also find themselves faced with a much larger challenge: chronic mental illness. Despite gradually gaining attention from universities across Canada in recent years, many schools still fail to provide adequate services for students requiring ongoing treatment, including our own beloved ‘number one undergraduate university’.

With the growing popularity of peer-run help groups like Change Your Mind and the Elephant in the Room speaker series, it is evident that Mount Allison students are working hard to extinguish the stigma related to mental illness and assist others in seeking ways to overcome the challenges associated with these concerns. Unfortunately, Mt. A does not appear to offer much in the way of support on this front; on Jan. 7, Gayle Churchill sent out an email to all students clarifying the extent to which the Mount Allison Wellness Centre can assist with mental health—which is to say, not much at all. While the centre does offer limited counselling services, it can take weeks to finally land an appointment, and nearly every student suffering from ongoing mental health concerns, eating disorders, or addictions will be referred to a hospital in Sackville, Amherst, or in most cases, Moncton.

Why does Mt. A not provide more support for students requiring more than basic counselling? Admittedly, part of this problem is the size of our university: even some larger schools do not boast on-site psychiatrists, but they are often located within or near larger cities where these services are only minutes away. However, it is obvious that Mt. A does not fall into this category, as one or more half-hour drives to Moncton for more specialized treatment can be frustrating at best, and expensive or icily treacherous at worst.

As many studies indicate, mental illness is most often identified in individuals in their late teens and early twenties, the age that the majority of people begin attending university. In addition, the process of adjusting to campus life and the pressure to succeed either socially or academically in a post-secondary institution are just two more factors that contribute to an increasing prevalence of anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and even thoughts of suicide among university students. Given this information, it would seem only logical that universities make it a priority to provide more accessible and extensive services that help students overcome the challenges of mental illness—but it appears that landscaping projects outside Crabtree are more important to the Mt. A administration than working to improve the mental and emotional well-being of students.

At the very least, the Wellness Centre should provide an easy and inexpensive method of transportation for students being referred to the Moncton hospital. While we obviously cannot expect an extensive psychiatric treatment facility to suddenly materialize at Mt. A, it is clear that our university could be doing a lot more regarding the growing demand for student mental health services that exists locally, provincially, and nationally.

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