'Underutilized' Graduate Peer Support Centre indefinitely suspended

PSAC 901 advocating for better mental health supports

GPSC to work with PSAC on expanding professional mental health services.
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On Sept. 1, the Society of Graduate and Professional Students (SGPS) announced the indefinite suspension of the Graduate Peer Support Centre (GPSC).

Established in 2019, the GPSC operated with a number of graduate and professional student volunteers offering support to fellow graduate students in need of mental health supports. According to SPGS President Justine Aman, the service was suspended after being underutilized.

“While reviewing the usage statistics and student uptake of the GPSC, it was apparent that this service was underutilized and, as a result, overfunded. This compelled us to consider what resources are available to students that are better serving their needs,” Aman wrote in statement to The Journal.

“This review also alerted us to the need for a good mix of professional mental health services, including both on campus and third-party support. While some students prefer speaking to someone locally, others prefer EmpowerMe, a virtual mental health service offered to Queen’s students through the SGPS inpartnership with the AMS and Queen’s, because of the increased sense of anonymity it provides.”

According to Aman, the suspension of the GPSC will allow the SPGS time to consult with students on what mental health resources are needed.

Based on student consultations, the service will either reopen or close permanently with the SGPS looking to provide graduate students with other resources to support their mental health.

Graduate students who are currently looking for mental health supports can access EmpowerMe, which is a service that provides a range of options for students seeking help.

Students impacted by the closure of the GPSC can provide anonymous feedback via on online form.

Should the service be permanently cancelled, fees required to fund the service would be reimbursed to the graduate students, Aman said.

The SGPS is currently meeting with PSAC Local 901 to discuss access to professional mental health supports to graduate students on campus.

According to Rohit Revi, Vice President of Research Assistants for PSAC Local 901, the closure of the GPSC only further widens the existing care gap for graduate students.

“The GPSC is an example of how labour [of aiding graduate student mental health] gets thrust upon unpaid graduate students. It was a replacement for an effective solution for the crisis of mental health of graduate students,” he said.

“It was always going to be ineffective because you cannot replace the need for well-funded mental health supports with unpaid labour of graduate students.”

Revi added that PSAC is in the bargaining stages with the University requesting the University provide funding for an expansion of professional mental health services at Queen’s and provide financial assistance to students who are currently paying out of pocket for mental health supports.

“Graduate and professional students find themselves in extremely precarious conditions, both in terms of the financial situations we find ourselves in and in terms of our overall mental wellbeing,” he said.

“Students shouldn’t have to be paying out of pocket when a lot of their ill-beings are tied to the nature of the work they do for the university.”

Revi said that PSAC has sent their proposed solutions to the University and are currently waiting on a reply. He added that he “believes [Queen’s] does have the financial capacity to be able to expand care.”

According to Aman, SGPS recognizes the concerns reflected by PSAC Local.

“We agree that the University needs to increase the number of, and diversity among, mental health professionals at Student Wellness Services,” Aman wrote.

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