‘I want to talk!’ Waterloo students demonstrate for better mental health support

Months of waiting for counselling and the culture of high productivity has University of Waterloo students demonstrating at arts quad Thursday morning.

“I want to talk!” One student chanted. “We want to listen!” The crowd answered.

WaterlooWalkout for Mental Health was organized after a 22-year-old student in his fourth year of study died by suicide on campus on Monday.

About 200 students showed up. Some held signs. Others shared their struggles with mental health and what they believe is a lack of support on campus from counselling services.

“It seemed like they didn’t care about what I had to say,” said Iman Abbarao, who has been studying at the university for almost four years.

“The other day I told my friends that if I didn’t have family and friends in downtown Toronto, I probably would have taken my own life at some point along this journey,” she said in front of the crowd of students.

Iman Abbarao Waterloo mental health

Iman Abbarao, a student in her fourth year, said the only way she can get support is to leave campus and take a two-hour GO bus ride to downtown Toronto where her family is. (Flora Pan/CBC)

One after another, students recalled times when they went to counselling services but were told the next available appointment is months away. Other students spoke about abuse, sexual assault, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chelsea MacDonald, a first year student studying theatre performance, said she is angry about the state of support available for students.

“And then something like this happens, the university tells me go to counselling services. I can’t even f–ing get an appointment,” she said.

Mental health report

Matthew Grant, the university’s director of media relations, said at the rally that it was “very brave” for the students to share their experiences with mental health.

He said the mental health report being released on March 14 will have recommendations for improving student mental health on campus. There is also a town hall where the president will talk about the report and address student questions.

Currently, there are 22 full-time equivalent counselling services staff and 2 full-time equivalent psychiatrists serving 31,380 undergraduate students and 5,290 graduate students.

For comparison, at the University of Guelph, there are 16 full-time counsellors, one full-time psychiatrist and one part-time psychiatrist serving about 23,000 students.

A Wilfrid Laurier University spokesperson said for approximately 14,500 full-time equivalent students at the Waterloo campus, there are more than 30 staff, a mix of full-time and part-time physicians, nurses and counsellors, at the Student Wellness Centre who address mental health concerns.

Sundus Salame waterloo mental health walkout

Sundus Salame said the pressure to succeed academically is intense and she frequently feels like despite studying very hard, she isn’t good enough. (Flora Pan/CBC)

‘Very competitive’ culture on campus

Aside from the long wait times for counselling, students mentioned the pressure to succeed academically and getting good co-op job placements makes it very difficult.

“Somehow I have to be superhuman, or I have to have some kind of time-turner to catch up with all of these deadlines and readings,” said Sundus Salame.

“A lot of people here are pushed to just work 24/7 just to get 80 average, just because the courses are designed to just weed out anyone who does less than an excessive amount of work,” she said.

Chelsea MacDonald waterloo mental health

Chelsea MacDonald is in her first year studying theatre and performance. She lives in a one-person suite in residence and says she feels isolated. (Flora Pan/CBC)

In her speech to the crowd, MacDonald said students on campus are so wound up in the “grind for grades, grind for co-op,” that there is very little feeling of community.

Despite having friends, she said she frequently feels lonely.

“I don’t feel safe in my dorm anymore,” she said, “Because I know if I was ever, ever, at that point, how long would it take for someone to find me?”

Sarah Welton Waterloo walkout

Sarah Welton organized the walkout in a matter of days after the 22-year-old student died on campus. (Flora Pan/CBC)

Sarah Welton, who organized Thursday’s walkout, said coming to the university as a second-year student was “very alienating, very isolating.”

“I’ve heard so many people express the same sentiment over and over again,” she said.

“I don’t feel that all these reports they keep sending out are going to do enough, if they aren’t actually trying to take action and make some real concrete changes around the university.”

Reposted from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/university-of-waterloo-campus-mental-health-1.4567382

Talking about mental health in Asian communities.

Happy to have been able to work with such a strong organization in blogging about my experience with being diagnosed with depression. I became acquainted with Mind while living in the UK to pursue my Master’s and finally had a chance to figure out a way I could help contribute to their cause in ensuring  everyone experiencing a problem gets both support & respect that they need.

This has been a project that had been in the works for a few months and i’m finally happy to share the result of having such a supportive organization help to share my story. I’m also incredibly humbled from the support I have received over the years in sharing my journey and to be fortunate to have helped others begin theirs.

While I have been fortunate to have the support of my family through my journey, I recognize that this is a prevalent issue amongst the Asian community in terms of stigma and the lack of support in terms of talking about  mental health. Hopefully by contributing to the conversation I can help other young people, especially minorities, find the courage and support they need to navigate and access an often complex mental health care system.



Read more “Talking about mental health in Asian communities.”

Almost half of Ontario youth miss school because of anxiety, study suggests.

At five years old, Shannon Nagy told her mother she wanted to die. In Grade 6, she missed almost the entire school year because more often than not, she couldn’t get out of bed.

Nagy, now 20, was diagnosed with anxiety, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and borderline personality disorder and was never able to finish high school. She spent most of her childhood immersed in a mental health care system that she said “did more harm than good.”

Her struggle to get help and the impact that struggle had on her education is a trend captured in a new survey commissioned by Children’s Mental Health Ontario, released Tuesday.

It found of the 18- to 34-year-olds surveyed across the province:

  • 46 per cent had missed school due to issues related to anxiety.
  • 40 per cent had sought mental health help.
  • Of those, 50 per cent found the experience of getting help challenging.
  • 42 per cent did not get the help they needed or are still waiting.

Parents are also impacted when their child has to wait as long as 18 months for mental health care, said Kimberly Moran, CEO of CMHO, the association that represents Ontario’s publicly funded Mental Health Centres and advocates for government policies and programs.

“Parents miss work and certainly myself as a parent, I have to take time to look after my daughter,” Moran said.

The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and Ministry of Children and Youth Services did not respond to requests from the Star for comment, with Monday being a holiday.

The study, conducted by research firm Ipsos, surveyed 806 people in October and suggests that a quarter of parents have had to miss work to care for their child due to issues related to anxiety.

When her 11-year-old daughter tried to die by suicide while on a year-long wait list for mental health care, Moran took a four-month leave of absence and then worked part-time. Six years later, she still takes about 10 per cent of the year off to help her daughter.

Half of the parents surveyed found getting their child mental health help was challenging because wait times are long, they don’t know where to go, or service providers don’t offer what their child needs, don’t exist in their community, are too far away or aren’t available at convenient times.

Anxiety is one of the “big front-runners” when it comes to mental illness in youth, said Lydia Sai-Chew, CEO of Skylark Children, Youth and Families, which offers free counselling and mental health services in Toronto. Wait times at Skylark for in-patient programs can be up to six months.

“The difficulty with wait times is that the youth gets more stressed, but so does the family,” Sai-Chew said. “Anxieties build up. They don’t have the strategies and it just gets worse.”

For 13 years, Michele Sparling of Oakville has juggled owning a business and taking care of her son who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression when he was 10 years old.

“If your child is home from school, you’re not leaving them alone,” Sparling said. “You’re worried when you have to step out for a moment. When a fire truck goes through your neighbourhood, you think ‘not my kid, not my kid.’

“That worry is constant.”

She said her family struggled to get her son the help he needed. In between driving him to and from appointments in Toronto, she got used to telling clients she might have to end a meeting at a moment’s notice if a crisis occurred. She watched as her son had to miss school, and continues to care for him now as he struggles with mental illness in university.

“This is not just about this one person, it’s about the bigger picture, the lost potential,” Sparling said. “I think we’re doing young people such a disservice.”

CMHO is asking the province to invest $125 million in community-based mental health centres, staffing and services for children and youth.

Reposted from: https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2017/11/14/almost-half-of-ontario-youth-miss-school-because-of-anxiety-study-suggests.html