On January 9, 2018, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) published a policy paper entitled, Breaking Down Barriers: Mental Health and Canadian Post-Secondary Students. This paper delves into what mental health looks like currently on post-secondary campuses in Canada, and what steps the federal government can take to make improvements in the lives of those struggling.
Mental health is a pressing concern for post-secondary students in Canada. The 2016 National College Health Association survey of Canadian post-secondary students demonstrates that a significant number of students are experiencing mental health problems and illnesses: 44.4% of surveyed students reported that at some point in the previous twelve months they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”; 13% had seriously considered suicide; 2.1% had attempted suicide, and 18.4% reported being “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety. The growing prominence of mental health issues among post-secondary students is not limited to Canada – it has been noted by practitioners and researchers in the United Kingdom and Australia, and authors in the United States have called the increase in students with mental health issues a “rising tide.” It should come as no surprise, given these experiences on campus, that so many student advocacy organizations are calling for attention and action on student mental health. As more students gain access to higher education, and the mission of institutions encompasses more of Canada’s diverse population, supports must be made available to ensure that all students can succeed in academic environments that promote good mental health.