Donating to mental health research should be applauded, but the work doesn’t end there.
Last week, Queen’s researcher Heather Stuart received $1 million from Bell to continue her mental health and anti-stigma research. Stuart formally received the funding last week as part of Bell Let’s Talk Day, at a joint announcement by Bell Let’s Talk and Queen’s.
It’s impressive that Queen’s is making headlines for having accepted a donation to further mental health research — publicity around mental illness helps in breaking stigma. It’s also reassuring to know that large corporations such as Bell are choosing Queen’s out of many other leading Canadian universities as a cornerstone of mental health research.
But it’s also important to recognize that Queen’s students aren’t actually seeing an improvement in their mental health supports as a result of this donation.
While Bell Let’s Talk Day is a great initiative, it’s one day out of a year. There are resources on campus that help support students’ mental health all year round — the Peer Support Centre and Student Wellness Services are just a couple.
These resources are also under-funded and backlogged. For these resources — which offer immediate comfort to those struggling with their mental health — and the students benefitting from them, $1 million to mental health research doesn’t make much difference.
Funding for mental health research is undoubtedly rewarding and a significant step forward in the grand scheme of things, but it’s a distant trickle-down effect between this research funding and a tangible improvement in mental health supports on campus.
While Stuart’s research will doubtlessly be valuable later on and in a national context, it won’t impact the Queen’s community members who are personally affected now. Donations like these and the discussions around them shouldn’t just be focused on positive press for the University because if mental health funding is going to be helpful in a real and tangible way, we need to pinpoint where and how exactly it’s going to make a difference.
We should celebrate a research donation to a worthy cause such as this one. But a triumphant press conference — complete with blue hats for students in the stands and several student leaders in attendance — can easily gloss over who the donation is actually affecting and how this is helping students on the very campus where it was held.
Money matters, but situating it where it has an effective and immediate impact matters too.
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