Queen’s Student Wellness Services needs personalized care

More therapists is one of many fundamental changes needed to help struggling students

Credit: 
Supplied by Matilda Eklund

University is a pivotal time for mental health.  Many mental health conditions such as OCD and bipolar disorder first present themselves in people’s early twenties. Other disorders like anxiety and depression are often triggered by periods of intense stress—such as facing new academic challenges while living away from home for the first time.  

The number of students in post-secondary education with diagnosed mental health problems has more than doubled in the last five years. Of the students surveyed in 2016, 46 per cent reported being too depressed to fully function, and 65 per cent reported experiencing “overwhelming anxiety.”  

While the Queen’s University website may advertise that “[its] philosophy is that students receive the level of care they need when they need it,” the current state of Queen’s Mental Health Services (QMHS) is inaccessible and in desperate need of repair. For Queen’s to address the mental health crisis on campus, its services must become more available for all students.

Same-day booking for counselling is one giant barrier students are facing.

Same-day booking is a means to ensure care is still needed once the appointment happens, but this completely disregards the chronic nature of mental health issues. For students suffering enough to reach out—be it from depression, anxiety, or general distress—their needs will not be resolved over the course of a day or a week.

While it is arguable that same-day care is flexible and serves those seeking immediate crisis support, it doesn’t account for scheduling issues. Appointment slots often fill up within minutes; students can become stuck calling early in the morning for days or even weeks before finally getting an appointment booked.

Seeking help is hard during a mental health crisis. Placing the burden of care on struggling students is unfair, especially without any promises being made concerning the quality or consistency of care they’ll ultimately receive. For a courageous student seeking help in their darkest moments, being told there is none available can be devastating.

Beyond accessibility, QMHS also lacks personalized care. Mental health issues are not universal and require specialized treatment.  One student dealing with trauma will require completely different care than another dealing with bipolar disorder. Many conditions require treatment from trained therapists; pairing students with someone specialized in the type of therapy they need is essential to successful treatment.

The need for personalized care also extends to racial and gender identities. Counsellors versed in LGBTQIA2S+ and BIPOC issues are necessary to support all students. Furthermore, the hiring of more BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ therapists will broaden the scope of the therapy team and ensure anyone seeking help will feel comfortable. The trust between a client and their therapist can be strengthened through a mutual understanding of similar experiences.

Students need providers with time to consider their specific needs and circumstances. Instead of relying on scrambled same-day booking system appointments on a first-come-first-serve basis, students should be given the opportunity to work with QMHS to form a treatment plan that is delivered by a care provider suited to their needs. Queen’s must hire more therapists to make treatment more personalized and autonomous.

Even with the past year having brought unpredictable challenges, these issues with QMHS are old news and have gone unaddressed for far too long. To support students properly, fundamental changes to Queen’s Mental Health Services are needed now more than ever.

 

Matilda is a fourth-year Arts & Science student. 

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