As someone who has taught undergraduates, I know there are two immense pressure points faced by students, particularly in the early years of university. First, is the gap between academic expectations in university and student preparedness to meet those expectations. Second, is the consequence of this gap, which can inspire feelings of inadequacy. Personally, I saw how this spirals into feelings of anxiety and possibly other things that students didn’t feel comfortable bringing to my attention.
Fortunately, in the recent past, I have seen the dialogue around mental health and student life change dramatically. While there is still much progress to be made on this issue, I feel like the “end the stigma” campaigns centred on mental health have changed the way we speak about the topic on university campuses. This is true for high schools, too, which is a positive thing.
Even if you have never had an episode of anxiety, depression, or any other symptoms of mental health issues, it is important that you understand the resources that are available to you on university campuses. If, on the other hand, you are currently managing mental health challenges and you’re concerned about how you will continue to do so as an undergraduate, please read on. Perhaps you might discover a new mechanism of support below.
Whether you’re experiencing any mental health challenges now or not, it is important for you to know that if you do, you’re not on your own. Some of the most significant hardships that students face are described in a 2013 College Quarterly article, which says that the number of students struggling with mental health related challenges, such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, is rising. This observation is echoed in a 2012 Maclean’s article about the mental health crisis in universities, alongside a 2011 study on undergraduates in Alberta, where mental health issues were proven to be a serious concern. As research shows, “At the University of Calgary, severe psychiatric disorders have increased 5.6 times since 2005-06. At the University of Lethbridge there has been a 76 per cent increase in booked counseling sessions in the past five years.”
It is impossible for me to list all of the mental health resources offered by every university in North America. However, you should know that most schools have gotten very serious about helping students through mental health crises. In fact, it is very likely that your school will have a personal counselling service on campus. If you have dealt with mental health challenges in the past, it may be wise to familiarize yourself with your university’s support mechanisms as soon as you arrive to school in September (click here to see York University’s Personal Counselling Services as an example).
There are also other public resources that you can find if you don’t feel comfortable with your school’s services. Ontario’s Good2Talk, for example, is free, bilingual, confidential, and it “offers professional counselling and information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being to post-secondary students in Ontario 24/7/365.”
If you are ever in a position where you need more or specific resources, here is a list of other services that you can consult. Please keep in mind that I am not a professional in dealing with mental health issues and the information below is not meant to act as a replacement to a professional’s advice. I simply believe that students should always have access to support for their well-being.
General Information and Resources: