Student health centres are reporting greater numbers of students experiencing a wide range of mental health issues, including depression, stress, anxiety or self-harm.
In response, Brock University has taken a leading role in the development and launch of a three-year, two-pronged provincewide campaign called More Feet on the Ground.
The campaign fills two critical gaps in addressing mental health challenges for post-secondary students – training on mental health and addictions specific to youth, and psycho-educational outreach. The aim is to train people how to recognize, respond to and refer university and college students who are experiencing struggles with mental health.
The first part is a newly launched information and training website that touches on everything from stigma and recovery to recognizing signs of illnesses like depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, self-harming, suicide ideation, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
The second component is the rollout of mental health psycho-educational workshops on the Brock and Niagara College campuses beginning in January. The best practices learned from these sessions will be shared with other post-secondary institutions in Ontario.
More Feet on the Ground is aimed at teaching assistants, staff, student leaders and others so they can support students. The initiative is funded by the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities through its Mental Health Innovation Fund.
Kim Meade, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Student Services, was instrumental in pushing for the campaign. She said the training website, an alternative to traditional face-to-face training, is being encouraged as professional development. Individuals who complete the online training will receive a certificate.
The number of Brock students accessing counselling services has increased 54 per cent in the past seven years, 10 per cent between 2010-11 and 2011-12 alone.
The number of students registered with Services for Students with Disabilities (SSWD) who identify a mental health diagnosis as their principle challenge has increased 51 per cent in the last five years.
The number of cases addressed by Brock’s Student-at-Risk case team has increased 436 per cent since its inception in 2006-07.
Brock’s Student Health Services reports a 117 per cent increase of student mental health visits to doctors over the last five years. The statistic does not include visits to a mental health nurse.
In the past year, Brock students reported the following in the National College Health Assessment Survey:
• 66.1 per cent felt very lonely.
• 55.8 per cent felt things were hopeless.
• 38.8 per cent felt so depressed that it was difficult to function.
• 59 per cent felt overwhelming anxiety.
• 8.4 per cent had intentionally harmed themselves.
• 11.4 per cent had seriously considered suicide, higher than the provincial average.
• two per cent had attempted suicide, higher than the provincial average.
The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health says that young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are the group most likely to experience mental health issues and/or substance abuse disorders. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among those aged 10 to 19.
“As we educate to reduce stigma, more students are self-identifying and seeking help and there are more referrals for support,” says Meade. “We are pleased to be working with campus and community partners and our student associations to promote health and wellness on campus.”