On October 6th, the provincial government of Ontario announced that they will be increasing funding for post-secondary mental health supports by 20 per cent in the 2020-2021 school year. This makes for a total of $19.25 million, $3.25 million more than the previous year.
Ross Romano, minister of colleges and universities, cites the COVID-19 pandemic as a key reason for increasing funds.
“Having mental health supports in place when students need them most is a key part helping students succeed, especially during this very difficult COVID period,” he said.
However, the global pandemic is not the only reason for increased mental health support. Over the last several years, the mental health needs of post-secondary students in Ontario have increased dramatically. The most recent National College Health Assessment survey of the Canadian student population (2019) revealed that 52 per cent of students reported feeling depressed, compared to 46 per cent in 2016, and that 69 per cent experienced heightened anxiety.
At UW, these statistics are magnified, with 48 percent of students having experienced depression that impacted their ability to function, and 16 per cent having seriously considered suicide in the past year.
Megan Town, WUSA VP of Education, made clear WUSA’s gratitude for the provincial government’s response after WUSA identified mental health as a key concern for UW students.
“Year-over-year we see our students struggle with their mental wellbeing… Thank you for hearing our concerns and increasing investment in students’ mental health,” Town said.
The investment will go toward a variety of initiatives supporting mental health, including: Good2Talk -a 24/7 mental health helpline service, Centre for Innovation in Campus Mental Health -a knowledge exchange hub providing resources and access to expertise for the post-secondary sector, and a Mental Health Worker grant for campuses to hire campus-based mental health workers.
Additionally, $6 million will be allocated toward a Mental Health Services grant for individual institutions to determine and deliver programs and services tailored to the needs of their student population.
“This announcement gives us the confidence that the government is listening,” Town said. “As a result, on behalf of over 34,000 students, we express our sincerest thanks for this investment.”
A complete list of the mental health resources available to UW students can be found on the UW Campus Wellness website: https://uwaterloo.ca/campus-wellness/counselling-services