Why Universities and Colleges Need Better Counselling Services

Post-secondary education is generally seen as a time where young adults can learn about a variety of subjects, create lasting friendships, and mature. However universities and colleges today aren't what they were 20 years ago. Student populations have substantially increased due to the need of a post-secondary education in the workplace. The level of achievement required to succeed has also increased for the same reason. Although there are other causes, these two factors have been the driving forces behind a mental health crisis on campuses. It is common for students to feel anxious and depressed at some point in their academic career and social life. Despite that, many schools have wholly inadequate counselling services that are often inaccessible. Better counselling services could be a huge step in combatting the crisis.

Jack's Story

In September of 2009, a boy from Toronto named Jack Windeler was just starting his first year at Queen's University in the Faculty of Arts and Science. Prior to going to school, Jack was described as bright and strong-minded individual who excelled in school. He was active in sports, and had a vast circle of friends and acquaintances. Halfway through the year, Jack's grades began to drop due to him not attending classes and instead, staying alone in his dorm room. In March of 2010, a month before he was to finish his first year, Jack committed suicide. He had been suffering from depression, hiding it from everyone, and his death came as a huge shock to the Queen's community.

Unfortunately, situations similar to Jack's have occurred countless times in schools across North America. Students going into university are in new territory, transitioning from teenagers into independent adults. This alone can cause emotional distress for individuals, but when paired with the stress of succeeding socially and academically the results can be overwhelming. Students feel immense pressure to succeed, or risk being unable to achieve their goals to live a meaningful life. That mindset can lead to stress and anxiety about grades, and depression if they don't live up to their expectations. In a 2011 survey done by the University of Alberta (U of A), 51% of students felt hopeless, over half felt overwhelming anxiety, and a shocking 7% had seriously considered suicide. These results aren't unique to U of A however, and are unfortunately common across North American schools.

Lack Of Access To Services

Most universities and colleges have counselling services available on campus for students who feel overwhelmed, stressed, or depressed. Since this is something that every single student will experience at some point in there time at school, you would think that a lot of focus would be put into these services. Unfortunately this is often not the case. Although some schools are putting effort into creating better counselling services, many have not improved. Students often wait for months in schools with large student populations like the UofT before seeing a counsellor.

If a student needs to see someone soon and instead seeks a counsellor outside of the school, they will need to pay for the sessions themselves. These sessions are not covered by OHIP or UHIP and can be upwards of $200 dollars each. Using Western University in London as an example, students are given $500 dollars a year towards counselling by a therapist. This amount can pay for around 2 to 4 sessions depending on how expensive the sessions are, and for some, 2-4 sessions simply isn't enough.

Universities are a great experience and provide individuals with exceptional education, and allow them to mature and transition into adulthood. Almost every student, however at some point has experienced anxiety and stress. Without adequate support this can make school an extremely difficult place to be. Despite how common these issues are, insufficient focus is being placed on the providing services to students . The services provided by the school are inaccessible due to demand, and alternatives are barely covered by student benefits. Counselling services are key in combatting the mental health crisis in post-secondary education; however the way they currently function is what's keeping them doing so.