Universities have a responsibility to care for students’ mental health

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Universities have a responsibility to provide accessible, timely, and professional mental health care to students—but Queen’s misses the mark. 
 
A university environment breeds poor mental health. Academic and personal expectations, intertwined with a fast-paced schedule and a competitive atmosphere, intensify anxiety and depression. 
 
A 2016 National College Health Assessment survey found that of 25,168 students from 20 post-secondary schools in Ontario, 89.2 per cent reported feeling overwhelmed in the last 12 months, 46.1 per cent felt so depressed it was hard to function, and 13.7 per cent seriously considered suicide.
 
Universities need to provide the infrastructure to deal with the consequences of the highly pressurized environments they create. 
 
Queen’s doesn’t do so effectively.  
 
Student Wellness Services (SWS) fails to accommodate the masses of students who seek one-on-one counselling. Despite the service being overwhelmed for years, the university has yet to devote sufficient resources to manage the mental health crisis on campus.
 
My own experience with SWS wasn’t a positive one. Following a family trauma last year—exacerbating my academic pressures—I reached out to counselling services. I called, clearly in crisis, and was told there was no appointment time for me and to call back after the weekend.
 
 I’ve had appointments cancelled within minutes of the session’s start time and had six-week long wait times for a return appointment. However, the counsellors I saw at SWS were kind, professional, and as frustrated by the system as I was. 
 
The neglect of students’ mental health isn’t perpetuated by the staff and counselors at SWS—but by the university itself. 
 
In a 2012 Maclean’s article, Principal Daniel Woolf said the university is “not a treatment facility.” Although published six years ago, this statement is still representative of the university’s attitude regarding mental health. 
 
This notion shouldn’t be tossed around lightly on campus. It places blame on students for being unable to cope with their mental health while removing all accountability from the university. 
 
Not only is this detrimental to student-administration relations, it sends a negative message to students about managing academic stresses: Deal with it or get out.
 
Yes, post-secondary education should be challenging—but that doesn’t mean the university is absolved of its responsibility to students’ mental health. It should be an institution’s priority to supply students with the resources to meet a growing demand. 
 
Mental health support on campus shouldn’t be considered a privilege, but a university’s responsibility to its students. 
 
Rachel is one of The Journal’s Assistant News Editors. She’s a third-year English major.
 

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