U of T mental health crisis can’t wait another day

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This editorial mentions suicide and may be triggering for some readers.
 
It shouldn’t take another youth suicide to reform the Ontario university mental health care system.
 
Over the weekend, a University of Toronto student died in an “incident” at one of the school’s buildings. The university hasn’t openly called the death a suicide, instead offering what many have called empty platitudes ignoring mental health on campus. 
 
In doing so, U of T is treating mental illness as a reputational liability—not as the life-or-death issue it is.
 
In July, the school approved a policy giving university administrators the ability to remove students struggling with mental illness from campus. At the time, The Journal, along with other student newspapers and universities, condemned the decision for its denial of student safety. 
 
But yet, no number of editorials or statements defending students’ health seems to make a difference. 
 
These risks are partly the result of policies prioritizing university image over the lives of individuals paying to live on campus and receive support. No amount of Bell Let’s Talk press releases can rectify the repeated suicides of students at a school sometimes referred to as “U of Tears.”
 
Granted, it’s not that universities directly cause suicides themselves. Mental health isn’t a one-and-done enterprise—it’s compounded by intersectional identities like sexuality, race, and socioeconomic status. And it’s often worsened by systemic discrimination in society. But when universities promise their students support services like counselling—leaving them with long wait times and brief appointments instead—they leave vulnerable students to seek out their own support networks, which often spells a dead end.
 
Schools can’t pitch themselves as a student’s entire community in good conscience if they’re not willing to provide sufficient services to safely bolster that experience. 
 
Students at U of T are calling for the changes they wish to see, including more health and wellness staff and shorter appointment wait times. This external pressure proves the failure of internal forces in forging progress. 
 
U of T has acknowledged its persistent mental health crisis. But being aware of a problem and acting on it are two separate things. This isn’t about promising to do better—it’s about mitigating the repeated loss of life. 
 
For universities to take this seriously, they need to prioritize mental health like they do other facets of student life. Many members of older generations running our society weren’t taught mental illness is a valid health concern. They don’t disdain it—they simply don’t understand it. 
 
However, as students keep dying, they’ll have to realize there’s no way around the issue except addressing it head-on.  
 
There’s no easy solution to this crossroads in mental health—but what’s abundantly clear is that it must be given serious consideration by Ontario schools before it’s too late. 
 
 
Anyone in need of support is encouraged to contact Student Wellness Services at (613)-533-6000 ext. 78264 and/or the University Chaplain Kate Johnson at (613)-533-2186. After hours, students can contact Campus Security at (613)-533-6733.

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