Editorial: Concordia can do better to help its students

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

We’ve all been there. And if we haven’t, we know someone who has. As students, we expect to feel nervous, stressed, anxious and even depressed at some point during our studies. As school, work and other responsibilities pile up, it can be difficult to reach out to mental health professionals and care for yourself.

With the numerous resources they have, depending on their financial capabilities, universities often emphasize that students should reach out with mental health concerns about themselves or others. But what happens when more people are reaching out than there are hands being offered?

If you’ve tried to access the Counselling and Psychological Services at Concordia, you might be familiar with the long wait times and lack of availability. At the end of last semester, Concordia’s Fine Arts Students Alliance (FASA) conducted a Mental Health and Wellness Survey. According to The Concordian, FASA coordinators noticed that common concerns included long wait times and a lack of communication about mental health services at Concordia. The coordinators will present the survey results in April and propose initiatives to better address students’ needs, according to the same article.

Concordia does, however, offer free sessions and workshops on stress management, self-confidence, and other topics. Posters about mental health can be seen around campus as well. Even so, there are only 14 mental health professionals listed on the Counselling and Psychological Services website. This isn’t proportionate with Concordia’s 45,000 students.

According to The Montreal Gazette, many Canadian universities have been dealing with increasing demands for better mental health support on campus. A 2016 National College Health Assessment found that 44 per cent of the 43,780 Canadian higher-education students surveyed felt too depressed to function, while 65 per cent experienced overwhelming anxiety, according to The Globe and Mail. The assessment found these two figures had increased from 2013, where 38 per cent were depressed and 57 per cent had anxiety.

According to Maclean’s, 51.8 per cent of Concordia University students felt overwhelmed on a daily or weekly basis. It is clear there is a need for mental health support, but what can Concordia do to meet this demand? Firstly, we at The Concordian would like to see the university invest in and promote more student-run initiatives, of which there are multiple. In an email sent to fine arts students by FASA on Feb. 20, the alliance outlined various services offered by student groups and the university. The email referenced the Concordia Student Union’s 24-hour mental health hotline, Empower Me, the Concordia Art Hive, an open space in the EV building where students are free to create and heal through art-making, and the Concordia Students’ Nightline, a student-run organization that offers confidential support on Friday and Saturday nights.

While we at The Concordian don’t want to dismiss everything the university has done to better promote mental health for its students, we can’t deny that the administration could do better in promoting the varied services available.

There are students trying to help each other through these difficult times, but their efforts don’t reach many of the people who need support. We at The Concordian know first-hand that many students weren’t familiar with the resources offered on campus until they read about them in our newspaper or heard about them through a friend. We believe the university must better address the struggles its student body faces with mental health. It could be as simple as including a list of services on every syllabus.

Mental Health services offered at Concordia include:

  • 24-hour confidential and multilingual hotline, Empower Me (1-844-741-6389)
  • Counselling and Psychological Services on both campuses in rooms GM-200 and AD-103
  • The Zen Den, a calm public space offered at the Counselling and Psychological Services office, which is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • The Concordia Art Hive, offered in EV-5.777 on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Thursdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.
  • The Concordia Students’ Nightline, which is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. (514-437-9797)
  • A meditation room in the downtown office of the Multi-faith and Spirituality Centre in the Z Annex on Mackay St.

Graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

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