The issue of mental health on post-secondary campuses has become increasingly prominent in the media as of late, and for good reason. The 2016 National College Health Association survey of Canadian post-secondary students reveals that: 44% 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.”
In addition to having a clear effect on a person’s quality of life and overall health, poor mental health can also have a direct impact on an individual’s ability to succeed in school and in the workforce. According to Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability, “those aged 15 to 64 with a mental health-related disability were less likely (46.3%) than their counterparts without a disability (61.1%) to have completed post-secondary qualifications.” Meanwhile, working adults with a mental health-related condition have a lower median income than those without, and more than 40% report being unable to work due to their mental health-related condition.
Support services on post-secondary campuses across the country are encountering growing demand, and are straining to meet the needs of students. For instance, wait times to see a campus counsellor can now range from 1 week to 3 months, and the number of students seeking academic accommodations due to a mental health issue has increased considerably.
Even with students increasingly seeking help for mental health issues, many are still dissuaded due to stigma. Unfortunately, disclosing information on mental health opens students up to potential discrimination from faculty, peers, and even prospective future employers. Receiving negative reactions upon disclosing a mental health issue or illness, including skepticism or trivialization, is also not uncommon.
Because about half of post-secondary students with mental health issues will experience the onset of their condition during their studies and because early intervention is proven to yield better long-term outcomes, CASA believes that student mental health must be addressed on campus.
How, you ask? CASA has several recommendations to better support students with mental health issues and illnesses.
On a general level, these include:
- Improving academic accommodations for mental health issues on campus and making these accommodations more accessible to those who need them;
- Decreasing stigma and increasing knowledge of mental health issues and the supports available; and
- Collecting more data on mental health in post-secondary education to help policy-makers develop effective solutions to fight stigma, reduce discrimination and improve mental health supports on Canadian campuses.
For more information on the issues students face with regards to mental health and the solutions CASA advocates for, please refer to CASA’s policy paper, Breaking Down Barriers: Mental Health and Canadian Post-Secondary Students.