How to Get Help: Mental Health Resources
Leading Canadian media organizations such as Maclean’s and the CBC have covered the mental health crisis on Canadian campuses. According to a 2012 article from the CBC, journalist Kate Lunau offers a long list of reasons for this crisis: homesickness, loneliness, the pressure to succeed academically, the fear of not landing a job after graduation. Other causes may be financial woes, housing problems, interpersonal conflicts. There is no question that today’s college and university students are stressed out, feeling depressed, maybe even suicidal. If you are reading this and nodding in agreement, please seek help.
Use your school’s mental health services
Most if not all colleges and universities offer mental health services to their students. Larger universities likely offer more services and have more staff. For example, the University of Toronto’s Health and Wellness Centre provides mental health services such as counselling, individual psychotherapy, group therapy, and pharmacotherapy. Smaller schools may only have a handful of counsellors on staff, but they will be able to refer you for more specialized care if necessary.
If you are uncertain whether your school provides mental health services, Google the name of your school and the words “mental health services”, “counselling”, or “student health”. Different schools name their mental health services differently. If nothing comes up, email your registrar’s office, your student union representative, or an upper-year student—any one of them should have this information.
Look for off-campus mental health services
There are also a variety of off-campus mental health resources available to you. Please note that not all of these services are student-specific.
Different mental health helplines are available for each Canadian province. In Ontario, for example, post-secondary students may call the Good 2 Talk helpline (1-866-925-5454), a completely free and confidential service available 24/7/365. Callers receive professional counselling, information, and referrals.
Funded by the Government of Ontario, the Mental Health Helpline also provides free, confidential, and 24/7 help. In addition to the phone line, it allows you to get help via email or web chat. This resource is not specific to students.
Your local Canadian Mental Health Association branch
Established in 1918, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) broadly speaking provides mental health services. CMHA tailors their services to specific communities, helping individuals with mental illness and their families heal and recover.
Find your local CMHA branch by going to their website (http://www.cmha.ca/get-involved/find-your-cmha/ ) and searching by city or postal code. You can also find a list of branches per province by selecting that province. After finding your local CMHA branch, look up their services and programs. The Toronto CMHA branch, for example, offers support services in mental health as well as employment, housing, and social justice. Because of the range of stressors that students experience, the variety of programs available may be useful.
There are two important points to take away: first, your mental health should not be neglected; and second, free and professional resources are available to students. This article is an introduction to finding mental health resources for you, on and off campus. Start with on-campus services because school staff are likely more experienced with student issues and concerns, but if these resources are unavailable, look off campus.