The Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities announced an expanded effort toward mental wellness in postsecondary schools last Friday. Over the next two years, the Ontario provincial government has pledged $12 million toward mental health projects across postsecondary institutions.
“The safety and well-being of postsecondary students is a crucial responsibility and this latest call for proposals will lead to new projects, which will help identify mental health issues and connect students to supports faster,” said Reza Moridi, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, at U of T’s World Mental Health Day rally where he made the announcement.
In the past, annual donations of $9 million have helped fund projects like “Good2Talk”, an anonymous, 24-hour student hotline.
More recently, a joint program between York, U of T, and Ryerson was developed to connect with students suffering from mental illness who have been forced to quit their studies prematurely. The project will help students returning from hospitals integrate back into campus life.
The primary proposals for the current $12 million are to focus on aboriginal students and students coming straight from high school.
Most mental illnesses reportedly occur between the ages of 18 and 24. The NCHA Ontario survey of spring 2013 found that 50.7% of students on average had felt “overwhelming anxiety” within the last 12 months and 40.1% “felt so depressed that it was difficult to function” within the last 12 months.
The funding will be used to support projects between universities and the provincial government. While the investment will not necessarily have a direct impact on health centres at individual campuses, the projects are intended to help address student needs that would otherwise be the responsibility of local health centres.
Currently, the UTM Health & Counselling Centre serves the entire campus population of over 13,000 students but is limited in counsellors, causing the office to sometimes refer students to other locations.