CSU implements new mental health strategy

New report by CASA iterates need for student support on post-secondary campuses

GRETA KOOY // CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR

The Capilano Students’ Union (CSU) is preparing to take some important steps with issues surrounding student mental health and wellbeing.

The Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), which the CSU is a member of, recently published Breaking Down Barriers: Mental Health and Canadian Post-Secondary Students, a paper that shows alarming numbers in regards to student mental health and disabilities. The paper outlines several crucial steps that both schools and the federal government could utilize when making improvements in post-secondary mental health measures.

Of the larger issues, implementing programs that are effective and have the ability to support a diverse range of issues, including both visible and invisible disabilities, are made clear.

According to CASA, the proper accommodations are fundamental in supporting students suffering from mental health issues. However, many post-secondary institutions require “documentation with proof of a formal diagnosis of permanent disability… to access these types of academic accommodations.” These rules limit the amount of people that support programs and accommodations can effectively reach, and can leave students with undiagnosed illnesses scrambling for help.

“We just released our own mental health strategy. One of the main issues that we’d like to see improved is we’d like to secure a place on campus similar to either Queer Resource Centre or the Women’s Centre. We want to see an Accessibility Justice Centre on campus” said Owen Sigurdsson, CSU vice-president equity and sustainability.

While CapU does offer student health and counselling services, a resource centre for those looking for help and support would be ideal. It is difficult to quantify just how many students are affected by mental health issues and the severity of those problems are very broad. However, the numbers we do have access to show a rather large increase in students who require support and are indicative of current trends in deteriorating mental health in post-secondary institutions.

CASA’s paper stated the increase of prescribing psychiatric drugs among students in both the US and Canada, which rose from nine per cent in 1994 to 24.4 per cent in 2014. And while it is evident that there is a rise in mental health issues among post-secondary students, and overall in young adults aged 20 to 29, the stigma of mental health hinders the ability to help and support many of those people. One study stated by CASA found that 30 per cent of students “did not request accommodations because they feared disclosing information to faculty.”

Sigurdsson acknowledged this as well, indicating the lack of student initiative to address their own personal problems with mental health. “Many students are sort of unaware of the signs of degrading mental health and they kind of normalize really negative things that might occur in patterns in their lives as they’re working in a university setting,” he said.

Although it may take time for new procedures to be cemented, it’s clear that the initiative to support students in their post-secondary setting has begun. The de-stigmatization of mental health issues, partnered with applying the right policies, education and training surrounding mental health, could mean a well-oiled machine on campuses and an improved life for students overall.

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