Door-to-door check-ins admirable, but more work ahead for Guelph

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Door-to-door mental health check-ins are a kind gesture, not a sustainable solution.

After four student suicides at Guelph University since the beginning of the academic year, the university’s faculty members and executives have been going door-to-door alongside their Residence Life team to check on students’ health and provide information about mental health support services on campus. 

The program has meaningful intentions. It could allow a first-year student — who may often feel disconnected from administration — to feel as though their concerns are being heard and prioritized. 

Since two out of four of these suicides have occurred in university residences, where these consultations are happening, the check-ins send the message that administrators and faculty care about the people who are most vulnerable and that they’re willing to go straight to the source. 

Even though this is a reactionary measure, it could make someone feel valued. But while this is a meaningful gesture it’s not a long-term shift towards bettering policy, education and support systems around mental illness.

This can’t be the only step towards better mental health resources at Guelph, especially because having a university executive knocking on a student’s door may not be the most inviting way for students to open up about their experiences. 

While the gesture may humanize administrators who students often see as intimidating, many students still may not feel comfortable telling a stranger that they’re not doing well. It’s important that students don’t only know that the administration is there for them, but also that their energy is being focused in areas that can implement long-term change to mental health resources. 

While it looks good on the surface to go door-to-door and talk to students, this can’t be a priority over tangible changes in policy and its implementation.

If this is something they insist on doing, students deserve to know that these executives receive the proper training to deal with sensitive mental health situations. 

For instance, Peer Support Centre volunteers here at Queen’s all receive SafeTALK training, which involves education about how to deal with students who display suicidal tendencies. 

In the future, door-to-door counselling using a peer-to-peer approach — like the AMS Peer Support Centre — could be a way for Guelph to maintain individual check-ins with students while also focusing the administration’s energy towards tangible steps forward. 

Guelph’s practice of door-to-door mental health check-ins is a positive gesture — as long as it’s just a gesture and not an attempt at a permanent solution. 

Journal Editorial Board

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