Graduate students can apply to receive up to $1,000 per year to support their mental health thanks to PSAC 901’s—the union representing Queen’s graduate student-workers—new mental health and hardship bursary.
The bursary is in response to what PSAC 901 President Astrid Hobill calls Queen’s “insufficient” supports for graduate students. It’s set to distribute $120,000 to graduate students over the next two years. The deadline to apply for the fall semester is Jan. 31.
PSAC 901 has already received applications for the bursary, which opened on Jan. 9. Successful applicants will be provided with up to $500 in discretionary funds per semester.
“Graduate students are really suffering with their mental health,” Hobill said in an interview with The Journal. “Especially with the fact that our stipends have really not gone up much over the past decade.”
The mental health and hardship bursary is meant to cover both wellness expenses for graduate students and expenses that can have an impact on mental health, such as rent and those pertaining to cost of living.
Hobill said the need for additional support is even greater among international graduate students, who she said reported a lack of supports—in their first language and in relation to incidences of racism—at Queen’s and in Kingston.
“Being in Kingston, [international students] can’t necessarily find therapists in town who understand their perspective on what they’re going through,” Hobill said.
According to Hobill, there is only one counsellor at Queen’s specializing in supporting graduate students, and only one counsellor specializing in care for BIPOC students.
“Graduate students are allowed to go to other counselors; however, often times they don’t understand the problems graduate students are facing because they’re really intended to be helping [Queen’s] undergrads,” Hobill said.
“Queen’s has seen how many graduate students are struggling and has not stepped up in many ways in order to help provide the resources that they need.”
The mental health and hardship bursary is not the only additional funding available to graduate students at Queen’s.
PSAC 901 has a gender affirmation bursary, which assists trans members with expenses such as drug therapies, surgeries, and administration costs incurred by name changes. PSAC 901 also has a bursary for childcare to support graduate students with families.
According to Hobill, Queen’s childcare services have limited spots—which are reserved for staff and faculty—limiting graduate students’ access to childcare on-campus.
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