Universities must act now to prioritize mental health care

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Universities often pride themselves on their strong communities and their dedication to their students. 
 
But as cries for better post-secondary mental health resources sweep the province, schools can’t claim they have students’ best interests at heart if they’re not willing to prioritize mental health support within their own health services.
 
Another tragic student suicide last week on the University of Toronto’s St. George campus has fueled more concerns from students over the administration’s apparent lack of initiative in combatting the alarming number of on-campus suicides the school has seen over the past two years.
 
This is yet another example of post-secondary schools’ flaws in addressing struggling students. The suicide comes on the heels of the university’s controversial mandated leave policy, which allows the university to place students whose mental health is deemed a risk to themselves or others on a mandatory leave of absence. 
 
Schools seem more concerned with appearances than with concrete student support, failing to even acknowledge these deaths as suicides. This often winds up stigmatizing issues that are life or death for these students.
 
U of T students have highlighted the university’s long wait times for counselling and lack of sufficient mental health resources as problem areas long overdue for change. 
 
These same issues plague our own school’s Student Wellness Services. 
 
Queen’s current model for students who need mental health counselling outsources them to Kingston community facilities. As they fail to hire more Wellness Service staff to equip the University’s own health services with the necessary resources, they fail to support their students sufficiently.
 
Queen’s might prefer to think they “are not a treatment facility” for struggling students, as former Queen’s Principal Daniel Woolf said last year, and therefore aren’t responsible for providing adequate mental health resources. 
 
But pushing vulnerable students, most of whom are living alone for the very first time, into a flawed provincial mental health care system does those students a disservice.
 
The student mental health crisis is hardly a recent development, especially in our own Queen’s community. 
 
It’s unacceptable that this issue continues to pervade campuses across the province. 
 
Every moment that passes without action leaves struggling students more at risk, and less protected by the institutions meant to support them.
 
Instead of devoting resources towards pushing struggling students outside of the scope of their care, universities—including Queen’s—should redirect their efforts to address the root of the problem. 
 
Schools need to prioritize mental health resources within their own communities, and they need to do it now. 
 
Campuses have already seen too much tragedy.
 
 

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