Fredericton, NB — Student organisations in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island are calling on their respective governments to fund innovative mental health intervention programs to improve the mental fitness and wellbeing of postsecondary students in the Maritimes.
In August, the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) and Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) released a national joint publication on the state of student mental health along with partners in Ontario and Alberta. The report highlighted the unmet needs of postsecondary students with regard to mental health support services on campus.
“It was important for us to establish a cross-country review of the current state of mental health,” said Sara Camus, chair of the NBSA’s Board of Directors. “Our publication noted that the status quo in New Brunswick is contributing to poor mental health outcomes in the province.”
In New Brunswick from 2012 to 2015, the number of postsecondary students requesting disability accommodation for mental health-related problems and illnesses increased threefold. By 2015, mental health was the most prevalent reason students from the NBSA’s Member Unions visited on-campus physicians. Average waitlists for mental health-related services at the province’s universities range on average from 2 to 6 weeks, and can grow up to 6 months long on some campuses during the academic year.
“Premier Gallant recently reiterated his government’s commitment to improving mental health outcomes. The investments we are proposing would significantly and quantifiably achieve these results,” said Robert Burroughs, NBSA executive director.
The NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEI Student Union are seeking an combined $700,000 from their respective governments for a suite of technology-based solutions already endorsed by the 16 public universities in Atlantic Canada.
Together, the suite of programs would improve four different areas known to impact student mental health outcomes: mental health literacy, peer support, professional counselling, and service delivery using e-mental health technologies. The suite includes online peer support and professional telephone counselling, 24/7, 365 days-a-year. The utility and efficacy of these programs are evidence-based and the NBSA, StudentsNS, and the UPEISU expect that they will be transformative to the mental health landscape for postsecondary students. In particular, the implementation of these diverse services will tackle one of the largest issues facing postsecondary counselling centres — waitlists.
“The government could not have been clearer in its Throne Speech that programs like these are key to its mandate. We look forward to their support and investment in the wellbeing of New Brunswick’s postsecondary students,” Burroughs added.