On October 30, 2013, as part of their Off Course On Campus series, CBC Toronto hosted a town hall on student mental health. The town hall panel featured Janine Robb, Executive Director of Health and Wellness at University of Toronto, Terry McQuaid, Director of Counselling and Accessibility Services at Seneca College, Eric Windeler, founder of the Jack Project, and Rachel Cooper, a student with lived experience of mental health issues. The town hall discussion focused on what some experts are calling a rising mental health crisis among post-secondary students. The panelists all agreed that the demand for mental health care among students are increasing. Robb cited a 10 per cent increase of students needing mental health care every year at the University of Toronto, and McQuaid said that the complexity of issues presented by students in crisis at Seneca College has increased as well.
Windeler said he believes that one of the reasons for this increase is stigma.
“Three out of four people struggling with mental health issues do so in silence,” he said. “No one talks about it.”
Windeler’s son was a student at Queen’s University when he died tragically by suicide in 2010. In honor of his son’s memory, Windeler founded The Jack Project, an education and awareness initiative focused on helping young people with the transition from high school to adulthood.
Audience members at the town hall raised a number of key issues to the panel, including cultural discrepancies in the approach to care, the relationship between mental health and equity, and the role of self-stigma, which occurs when an individual internalizes stereotypes about mental illness and can act as a barrier to asking for help.
Aliçia Raimondo, who currently works at the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health at CMHA Ontario, challenged the panel to share a story on how self-stigma is starting to wane. Panelists shared the positive shift in attitude they’ve seen through personal conversations with students and awareness campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk and Movember in encouraging people to seek help.
For more on the Off Course On Campus CBC series and full coverage of the town hall, visit the CBC Toronto website