Students applaud the BC Government’s announcement on the creation of a student mental health service that will be accessible for all students across the province. According to the announcement, students will soon be able to access counselling services either online or via the phone 24 hours a day seven days a week.
“Many students struggle to access mental health supports; there are long wait times for on-campus counsellors, and in many communities there are very limited options for off-campus support,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “Students were excited when the government initially announced this initiative, and the selection of the provider brings it one step closer to implementation.”
The service will provide students with access to supports that supplement campus and community services, ensuring help is available when students need it. Post-secondary students in all regions of the province will be able to access this service at any time, removing barriers associated with geography and work and school schedules. The service was developed in consultation with students, and the ongoing consultations with students will help to ensure the implementation best addresses students’ needs.
“The typical nine to five office hours don’t always work for students,” said Klassen. “When you’re dealing with stressors associated with academics, work, and life, missing class to talk to someone can compound the issue rather than help solve it.”
Two decades of underfunding in the post-secondary education sector has caused tuition fees to dramatically rise, which has resulted in students working longer hours, multiple low-paid jobs, and taking on financial insecurity to complete their studies. Additionally, underfunding has strained institutional budgets, and on-campus supports like counselling have not been able to keep up with the demands of growing student populations.
“This service will save lives,” said Eleanor Vannan, BCFS Campaigns Coordinator. “We are hopeful that talking about mental health struggles openly will also help de-stigmatize mental health issues and show students who are struggling that they are not alone.”
A survey of students by National College Health Association found that over 59.6% of Canadian students reported feeling things were hopeless and 89.5% of students felt overwhelmed by the amount of work they had to do in the previous year. This record investment in student supports will go a long way to provide students more tailored supports and get students who require long-term supports into community based programs.