The Medium spoke to the Health and Counselling Centre (HCC) about the process students can go through to access mental health services on campus, as well as how the HCC responds to “at risk” students. Here is the breakdown:
Students looking to get a psychiatrist appointment first need to have an appointment with a physician to be referred to the psychiatrist. This referral process is outlined by the Ministry of Health and is a standard referral process in the Ontario medical system.
However, before meeting with a physician at the HCC, a student will generally meet with a mental health nurse who will gather information “to assist in the process of diagnosis and to offer support to a student during the time they are waiting to meet with a physician.”
According to Erin Kraftcheck, the HCC’s medical director, the wait-time to see a psychiatrist at the HCC is typically between one to three weeks after a referral is made by a physician at the clinic.
According to Kraftcheck, the wait-time to see a psychiatrist in the Peel region is approximately six months.
“Due to space limitations, we are only able to have two physicians in the clinic per day, and now that we have hit the peak time for appointments, it can take a couple of weeks to meet with a physician,” said Kraftcheck.
When a student appears to be in distress or in a crisis situation, HCC staff first work to identify appropriate and available supports at the time.
“In most cases we work with students to develop safety plans, and identify support people in their lives, and ensure close follow-up with the various clinicians in the HCC,” said Kraftcheck.
When a student is deemed to be a risk to themselves or to others, Kraftcheck said there is a “responsibility of health care providers to ensure that patients are assisted to remain safe.”
This includes transporting a student to the hospital for crisis support through the emergency department.
“Their situation at that time is best supported through a crisis service, which the HCC is not,” said Kraftcheck.
On the question of whether Campus Police is contacted by the HCC when a student is experiencing mental health concerns or is seen to be “at risk,” Kraftcheck said it occurs on rare occasions.
“Police are not called in all situations where a student indicates they have suicidal ideation. This, in fact, is relatively rare.”
“If a student has been assessed by a physician, it may be determined they need further assessment at the hospital, and in this case the patient is required to be transported to the hospital by police,” continued Kraftcheck.
Kraftcheck affirmed this is a process seen throughout the Ontario medical system based on the Ontario Government’s Mental Health Act to ensure that those who have indicated a significant risk of harm to themselves or to others remain safe until they can receive further assessment and treatment.
Kraftcheck added that if a physician is not available but another staff member believes a student to pose a significant risk to themselves or others, they will also call Campus Police for assistance.
“The HCC offers short-term, solution-focused counselling,” stressed Kraftcheck.
When a student’s mental health concerns require longer-term counselling, the HCC will also help students select personal counselling in the community through websites like Psychology Today, where they can select a variety of traits or specializations they would like their counsellor to have.
The HCC also has partnerships with outside organizations that can better assist students in specialized support options.
“We have a partnership with Interim Place, which supports survivors of violence or abuse. This [partnership] also allows female-identified students to meet with a counsellor from Interim Place on campus,” said Kraftcheck.
Referrals to the Peel Addiction, Assessment and Referral Centre (PAARC), Hope 24/7, Distress Centers of Greater Toronto, and Peel Mobile Crisis are also made by HCC staff when appropriate.
As suggested by the Presidential and Provostial Student Mental Health Task Force in their latest Draft Summary of Themes, the HCC is looking into making appointment requests more accessible.
At the moment, students can schedule an appointment at the HCC in person or over the phone.
“We are not currently able to take appointment requests over email or the internet, but the internet is an option being explored as a possibility for the future,” said Kraftcheck.
The HCC offers a monthly resiliency workshop run by a mental health nurse and organizes group counselling sessions every semester with a concentration on mental health concerns like social anxiety, depression, and managing negative thoughts, among others.