Bar none, this is the most stressful time for college and university students, especially first-years who are completing their first semester and heading into an exam period.
Along with this high level of stress, there has been a growing concern about the mental health of our post-secondary students, especially in the last few years as some institutions have witnessed more than one suicide.
Queen’s University had six student deaths last year and as a result recently published a number of recommendations on student mental health and wellness.
Most of these concentrate on creating an environment where students who need support can easily find it.
These include not having to wait months to see a counselor and implementing an early alert system where both staff and faculty can flag any student who may be struggling both academically and socially.
This system would then trigger a number of responses such as an email from an advisor or counselor.
Other in-person recommendations included creating a mentoring system for first-year students where they could connect with fourth-year students.
These students would provide them with the support they need on how to navigate through their first year.
One of the things I found most interesting about the report is a focus on developing a model similar to what you would find in health care.
At their student health care centre they are looking at ways in which to tie counseling to their health services as an integrated team focusing on student mental health.
Along with this they also want to create a formal relationship with the on-campus pharmacists who can provide even more information on a particular student.
This would all be done in an effort to establish a case management system to support students in crisis.
Other initiatives include walk-in counseling services, longer hours of operation for health care services, an increase in the number of psychiatrists on campus, and creating policy that is primarily focused on early intervention with referral for long-term care.
Although Queen’s has been very proactive in this area, other universities are also adopting similar strategies to help students cope.
Dalhousie just opened up a puppy room where students can spend some time hanging out with furry friends as a way to de-stress.
Apparently this room is so popular that there are now lineups to get in.
The school is now considering a partnership with the local SPCA to bring in dog-walking opportunities for students.
And York University just held a two-week mental health campaign providing all sorts of information and learning opportunities to their students on coping strategies and about the variety of support that is available.
So why are students so stressed out to begin with?
I think the economy has a lot to do with it. It’s really hard to think you’re in the right program and you made the right decision to be in school when the job prospects are not that great.
I could see many students, especially young men wondering if they might be better off working in the oil industry.
The accumulation of student debt is another concern, especially when the job market is so bleak.
On top of all this, there is a lot of pressure to succeed and not all students have the maturity to deal with failure.
Most students either come very close or fail at least one course in their academic career.
Failing is a normal part of life—something I think our society has forgotten over the years.
This generation of students needs to know this because accepting failure is usually the first step in moving forward.