Quebec announces new Observatory on the well-being and mental health of students in higher education

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Concordia’s involvement in the project remains uncertain

On Tuesday Feb. 21, Pascale Déry, Quebec Minister of Higher Education, announced the creation of an Observatory to research student mental health in higher education. The Observatory will partner with researchers and students in various disciplines. Quebec will  invest $2.8 million over five years in the interdisciplinary project. The Observatory is part of the government’s Plan d’action sur la santé mentale étudiante en enseignement supérieur 2021-2026 (action plan for student mental health in higher education).

The research project will be co-directed by researchers from the Cégep de Jonquière and Université de Sherbrooke. The Observatory’s mandate will assess and monitor the state of mental health in higher education on a large scale. It will also link research to practice in the field by guiding educational institutions in the implementation of their mental health policies.

Scientific director of the Fonds de recherche du Québec en Santé, Carole Jabet, pointed out that the findings on the mental health of students were worrisome.

“We have talked about the pandemic, a health crisis that has affected all of us, but especially our students, and all this has definitely accentuated the problems of physical and mental health,” she said.

Jabet added that the Observatory wished to meet a great diversity of needs since any student in higher education is at risk of suffering from mental health issues.

“There is no correlation between mental health and the discipline in which one studies, the institution where one studies,” said Jabet. “Every young adult around us is likely to suffer from mental health issues.”

One of the cross-cutting objectives of the Observatory will be to train members of the student population to become mental health professionals. This idea fits in with one of the main goals of the Observatory, which is to decompartmentalize mental health research.

Neuroscience researcher Rémi Quirion said that despite the frequency of mental illnesses, they remain stigmatized.

“Mental illnesses are not rare. We estimate it touches 20 per cent, and in the student population it’s even 25 per cent,” said Quirion. “If you look around the room, one out of four people around you will suffer from a mental illness in their life.”

Concordia spokesperson Vannina Maestracci said that the involvement of the University in this project is still to be decided.
“Concordia would certainly be willing to be involved but it is too early to say in what role,” said Maestracci in an email to The Concordian.


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