In recent months there have been two suicides at a nearby university campus. It’s incredibly distressing and disheartening to see people take such drastic and permanent measures. The potential for love, happiness, and life these young individuals had is thrown away being stuck in abyss. But the sad part is, this issue is not specific to just this one school, but all post-secondary schools across the country. Over the years I can think of a number of suicides that have taken place, with students ranging in various ages and different programs. All fighting dark demons they felt they could not continue to fight alone.
How many more suicides need to occur before school administrators truly grasp the importance of adequate mental health services on campus? It’s certainly not as though we don’t have enough funding to address this problem. When there are two suicides in one semester, this raises a red flag.
It’s unacceptable and cruel to have students waiting weeks or even months to receive mental health counselling that can often result in a live or die situation. On top of all that, it doesn’t help that many schools keep incidences like this “hush-hush”. On one hand, I can understand that trying to keep quiet may diminish the likelihood of copycat incidences. But on the other hand the only way to abolish mental health stigma is to TALK about it. Communicate. Express how we feel. Remind people that there is nothing shameful about struggling.
One of the biggest issues is the students not knowing what other services there are. Luckily, if one is comfortable speaking with a peer rather than a ‘professional,” the Kitchener-Waterloo region has a variety of services available such as UW MATES, UW Women’s Centre, or the Glow Centre for Sexual & Gender Diversity. Other city centres would also have support groups for individuals to connect with.
Another major complication, in accessing off-campus services is that not every person has coverage extending outside of their specific university health insurance plan that allows access to other sources. When I went to my student health centre when I was first diagnosed I was told that the wait-time for a psychiatrist on campus was close to 6 weeks. A wait that was simply too long for me to have waited at the time. Therefore, it was recommended that I explore off-campus options as the wait-time was much quicker because it was out-of-pocket. Therapy is expensive. At my worst point over three years ago, I had to see my psychologist 2-4 times a week for 3 months. Each session set me back about $110 for a one hour session and only a small portion was reimbursed by my parent’s private insurance plan. For many people, this is simply not feasible and understandably so. This is why it is so important that university services be strengthened.
At the end of the day I sincerely hope that all universities look at this steady trend of student suicides and take this as an opportunity to better the services offered on campuses, whether extending facilities, hiring more trained professionals, or even simply taking the needs of students more seriously – seeing them as people with real emotions and feelings rather than as an 8-digit ID number.
Regardless of who you are reading my blog, this is an important reminder that I will always have an ear ready to listen. Let’s keep the discussion of mental health alive and strong. Mental illness is a serious issue that affects many people, especially students placed in highly stressful periods being in demanding programs and competitive fields. With more information and resources available maybe just maybe it can save a life even if it’s just one it’s worth it to me.
Take a moment to not only look after your own minds and needs but also take a moment to check up on those around you. A simple “how are you?” can go further than you think.