Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor for Friday, Feb. 6, 2014

Queen’s should be “for” vaccines

Dear editors,

As deeply concerned as I am that a professor has been allowed to teach misinformation regarding vaccines to students since 2011, I’m also quite disappointed to read Provost Alan Harrison's comments on the issue in the Toronto Star article "Students raise concerns over Queen's professor's anti-vaccine teachings," published Wednesday, Feb. 4.

In the article, Harrison is quoted as saying that Queen's does not have a position on being "for or against" vaccines.

A university is supposed to represent higher education and research, and I can’t fathom why Queen's would not be "for" vaccines, which have been one of the greatest medical inventions in human history, and are well supported by modern scientific research.

Regards,
Colin Sutherland
Sci'09

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Re:Let's Talk Binge Drinking

Dear editors,

In reading your latest edition's article "Let's Talk Binge Drinking", I wanted to take a moment to express my complete agreement on the arguments presented, and let you know about the initiatives that both students and administration have been pursuing to deal with this prevalent and often alarming situation.

As of this year, myself and three other Queen's students were hired to form a committee within Queen's University Health Promotion that’s focusing exclusively on alcohol education on campus. Your article hits the nail on the head — one-time campaigns have not proven effective, and there’s much work to be done with regard to orientation programming around drinking.

These two issues have been highlighted as key areas of reform, along with a complete review of the alcohol education materials used across campus and the creation of new learning opportunities. The goal of these reforms is to bring evidence-based social norm strategies to Queen's in order to change the drinking culture.

Just as the problem is immense, so is the task at hand. Our project is in its initial phases, currently focusing on an empirical research review (including the NCHA survey you discussed) to put forth recommendations for change on campus.

While we hope to have a concrete and valid plan of action to implement beginning in the next school year, we understand that change will ultimately require the collaborative and cooperative effort of the entire student body. As a result, we want to thank you for taking the time to bring this issue to students' attention and we hope our positions demonstrate that it is one for which we’re working towards drastic improvement.

Best,

Alissa Klingbaum
ArtSci ’16

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More mental health resources needed at Queens

Dear editors,

It took two appointments at Queen’s Health, Counselling, and Disability Services, four appointments at LaSalle asking for a treatment referral, over $1,000 spent on private treatment, one hospital visit and a loss of 30 pounds before I was finally put on the six-month wait list for Hotel Dieu.

Last week was the fifth anniversary of Bell’s #BellLetsTalk, a campaign focused on raising mental health awareness.

Since 2011, Bell has committed to raising over $67.5 million to mental health initiatives across Canada. For every tweet, share, and text from Bell service users, Bell Canada will donate five cents to eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness.

As a person who suffers from a mental health illness, I know all too well the devastating effects of the stigma surrounding mental illnesses.

However, is simply raising awareness about mental illness enough?

On their website, Bell Canada cites the Canadian Institute of Health Research that one in five Canadians will suffer from a mental illness in their lifetime.

Add to that, the fact that only one in five children who need mental health services are currently receiving them, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Now, compare that to the one in four Queen’s students who suffer from a mental illness, yet the wait time to see a doctor on campus to simply receive a referral for proper treatment is upwards of three weeks.

The World Health Organization estimates that the treatment gap in mental health can range between 32 per cent to 83 per cent, depending on the mental illness. There is a small window of time between a person wanting to receive treatment and actually following through with proper treatment.

The long wait periods to see a doctor at Queen’s Health, Counselling, and Disability Services cannot accommodate the large treatment gap in mental health.

That’s the thing about mental health treatment. People who seek it, need it immediately, and if they are deferred treatment by three weeks, they may not feel they need treatment.

That’s the problem. It’s very likely that they still do. They may very well feel that they are “over it”; but they are not.

What’s more is that at least five per cent of Queen’s students have admitted to suffering from an eating disorder, yet there are no resources on campus that treat eating disorders.

After a year of waiting to be accepted into the eating disorder clinic at Hotel Dieu, the mandatory sessions conflicted with a required course for my program.

There needs to be proper treatment available at Queen’s for students suffering from mental illnesses that are flexible to their schedules.

The AMS commits considerable resources for student-run clubs and initiatives dedicated to raising awareness about mental health on campus, some of which I have been involved with.

The Mental Heath Awareness Committee’s (MHAC) mandate is to “promote healthy discussion of mental health on campus, and to fight the stigma associated with mental illness”. Through speaker series and residence outreach programs, MHAC has been and continues to be remarkably successful at raising awareness about mental health.

Student-run organizations are quintessential in initiating dialogue about mental health and eliminating stigma; however, there are not enough resources on campus that actually provide treatment for students suffering with a mental illness.

I can’t measure the impact of #BellLetsTalk on eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health, but I can measure the millions of dollars they have contributed to mental health initiatives.

I do see the impact these donations have on people suffering from mental illnesses because they make mental health resources more accessible.

The same principle needs to hold true at Queen’s.

I can’t measure the impact of organizations like MHAC at Queen’s on eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health, but I can measure the pounds I have lost and time spent waiting for proper treatment because of the lack of mental health resources at Queen’s.

The problem at Queen’s is not a lack of awareness about mental health: it’s a lack of adequate resources to deal with mental health.

With an influx of almost 300 new students next year, there are a potential 75 who will likely suffer from a mental illness.

There are already insufficient mental health resources on campus to deal with the current student body. There are approximately 20,000 students at Queen’s; 5,000 of them will suffer from a mental illness. It’s time Queen’s started using the mental health awareness on campus to make real changes.

Elisha Corbett
ArtSci ’16

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