More Canadian university and college students are reaching out for help with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.

More Canadian university and college students are reaching out for help with anxiety, depression and other mental health issues.
Photo Credit: CBC The National/file

Drop-in mental health clinic offers after-hours help to students

Health authorities have set up a new after-hours, mental health clinic at Western University in London, Ontario. It is running during the stressful exam period from mid-November to December 14th, three days a week from 5pm to 9pm. During the day there are other health services that students may access.

Student need for services increases across Canada

The decision to extend services comes after two students took their own lives during the last academic year at Western University. A pan-Canada health survey found that 46 per cent of students in college or university said they had depression interfering with their ability to function. Campuses across the country are seeing an increase in student requests for help with their mental health.

Students face many challenges and may need help outside of daytime clinic hours provided on campus.
Students face many challenges and may need help outside of daytime clinic hours provided on campus. © CBC/file

“It’s a time of transition and it can be a really difficult time for students,” says Lori Hassall, director of crisis programs at the Canadian Mental Health Association in the region. She worked hard to get the clinic up and running.

“Many are leaving home for the first time and they’re coming to a new city. There are different academic expectations…They’re navigating a new social arena and having to make new friends. Sometimes they are not sleeping so well…They may feel lonely or isolated.”

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Less stigma, easier to reach out for help

More students are reaching out for help. Hassell says a decade ago only five per cent of people accessing community mental health services were young people. Now it’s more than one-third. It’s not clear whether this is because the stigma of mental health issues has abate and people feel more comfortable asking for help or whether students are suffering more.

Providing after-hours counselling is useful for students who are busy with classes and cannot access mental health clinics during the day.

Counselling provides support and hope

“I think it definitely helps,” says Hassell. “We see students presenting with a whole range of issues. It might be everything from relationship problems, stresses around academics. They may be dealing with anxiety or depression or maybe an eating disorder.

“But meeting with somebody and having someone listen to them and validate, provide support and help them to services and give them hope really makes a difference.”

Lori Hassall says mental health issues often emerge in adolescents and it is best to provide help early.
Lori Hassall says mental health issues often emerge in adolescents and it is best to provide help early.

More serious cases are referred

Some students only need one consultation. Those with more serious problems like psychosis or major depression or anxiety can be referred to more specialized services.

The mental health service has received funding that will enable it to set up these temporary, after-hours, mental health clinics at Western University over the next three years.

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