Students deserve more when it comes to mental health

University emphasizes reputation over wellbeing

Will Preradovic outside of  Student Wellness Services.
Photo: 
There was recently a Facebook post on Overheard describing one student’s difficulties scheduling an appointment at Student Wellness Services. Once it circulated, hundreds of people replied with similar stories of their own about mental health services on campus. 
 
These aren't isolated cases. Many people who need urgent access to mental health support often must wait for three weeks or longer to see a mental health professional at Queen’s. 
 
Through insufficent funding and a lack of resources for mental health services, the University has revealed little responsibility for the health of its students. This puts people at risk and shouldn’t be overlooked. 
 
Young people’s mental health issues can be addressed with increased access to mental health professionals. But the problem can’t be solved if there’s a month long waiting list to see a professional. 
 
Even as students become increasingly comfortable discussing their mental illness struggles, the difficult process of getting help derails their chance of getting better. For these students, it's easy to become discouraged and lose hope. 
 
Although the stigma around mental illness has been reduced, if there aren’t enough mental health professionals to meet students’ needs, no meaningful change on campus can occur. 
 
At Queen’s, concern for students is only shown or emphasized when it could potentially damage the university’s reputation. 
 
The contrast between how Queen’s values issues related to public perception compared to the private needs of students is clear. It's funding or devoting attention to the wrong things at the wrong time.   
 
This summer, Principal Daniel Woolf worked alongside the City of Kingston to lace harsher penalties for alcohol infractions during Frosh Week, Homecoming, and St. Patrick’s Day. 
 
The University District Safety Initiative (UDSI) demonstrates that Queen’s administration has an influence on students’ lives. Last year’s Homecoming saw Kingston Police give out 330 tickets. This year, after the UDSI was introduced, that number dropped to 85.
 
When contrasted with the insufficient care given to mental health, Queen’s is misdirecting the influence it has on students.
 
If the University applied the same attention to the improvement of mental health they did to the UDSI, students would be healthier.
 
Beyond devoting effort, the state of mental health services could be improved by increased funds. 
 
The renovation of Richardson Stadium shouldn’t have taken precedence over increased accessibility to mental health resources. By doing that, the University sends the message to students that they place new infrastructure over the well-being of their students. 
 
As an ethical standard, mental health issues should be treated with equal importance to physical health, like the flu or broken ankle. Mental health affects all students—at times more so than physical health—and Queen’s must recognize that to progress.
 
Consider if someone had to wait a month to access treatment for a physical health issue that threatened their life. For students who are at risk of suicide, lack of access to a mental health professional for that long could be fatal—similar to someone with a physical issue.
 
That said, it would be unfair to say Queen’s denies mental health entirely or intends to make life more difficult for students. But neglecting to appropriately fund mental health services on campus, the University is saying it isn't responsible for students’ wellbeing. It only cares about being meaningfully involved in student’s lives when it prevents them from bad PR. 
 
If Queen’s cares about the number of shattered beer bottles on Aberdeen St., then they ought to care about their own students' mental health. 
 
William Preravoic is a third-year philosphy student.

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