The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has extended the Mental Health Innovation Fund (MHIF) by two years, pledging $12 million for mental health services and programs to support post-secondary students This news is welcome as student mental health continues to be a significant issue in Ontario. The Toronto Star reports that in 2009, a survey of students from six Ontario campuses showed that 53 percent of post-secondary students felt overwhelmed by anxiety, 54 percent felt hopeless and more than a third said that they felt so depressed that it was difficult to function. Furthermore, 7.2 percent said they had “seriously considered suicide.” Students’ mental health affects their school performance, social interaction, and overall quality of life.
Life on campus comes with a multitude of pressures. Students are expected to excel academically, manage stress, cope with social pressures, form new relationships and participate in volunteer and extracurricular activities. Many students are living away from home for the first time, which can bring additional stress and feelings of loneliness. It’s no wonder that many experience poor mental health.
The MHIF has sponsored 20 projects since 2012. One of the projects includes a free 24-hour helpline for post-secondary students called Good2Talk, launched last year to address growing concerns about mental health on campus, including student suicides. Good2Talk serves about 1,000 students a month; so far, 50 of those callers have been considering suicide.
CMHA Ontario is also working to improve post-secondary students’ mental health. Together with the Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health (CICMH), it is developing a report on promising practices in campus-community partnerships that result in high quality, mental health and addiction programs and services for students. The report will raise awareness of community supports and profile several successful partnerships between CMHA branches and post-secondary institutions in Ontario. In addition to encouraging partnerships, the report will explore how organizations can overcome challenges to enhance the quality of community mental health and addiction services for post-secondary students.