University students and mental health

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author: taylor balfour | news writer


Happy health happy life / jeremy davis

A glimpse into the brains of the people

It’s not a secret that Canadian students struggle with their mental health. A Stats Canada survey conducted in 2017 reported that, while surveying a group of 15- to 24-year-olds, 64 per cent reported being students.

From this group, 35 per cent “reported that school was the major contributor to feelings of stress.”

Out of all of them, four per cent reported that a “physical or mental health problem or condition” contributed to their stress.

Also out of this study, it was estimated that 11 per cent stated they had “been depressed in their lifetime,” with seven per cent experiencing it “in the past year.”

Out of these numbers, 61 per cent of those affected reported to “have talked to a professional about their symptoms.”

“I struggle with recurring depression, feelings of low self-esteem, and suicidal thoughts,” an anonymous University of Regina student revealed.

“This used to make it very difficult for me do my schoolwork, interact with my peers, and deal with critical feedback or other setbacks in my studies.”

“I have been going to counselling for over a year now, and it has helped substantially,” they said. “I see my therapist twice a month, more if necessary. I also do some readings they have suggested, and I have noticed significant improvement over the past few months.”

According to the Stats Canada study, 42 per cent of the 15- to 24-year-olds interviewed claimed that they discussed their mental health with a professional, with 61 per cent reporting to consult an “informal source in the past 12 months.”

Friends and family members were considered to be informal sources, and were the most common out of those surveyed.

In a 2016 survey conducted by the Canadian Medical Association Journal [CMAJ], they found that 15 per cent of surveyed post-secondary students in Ontario said “they’d been treated for depression or diagnosed with it in the previous year,” whereas that number rose to 18 per cent when it came to anxiety.

“This was a large increase from 2013,” the report said, “when 10 per cent of students reported depression and 12 per cent reported anxiety.”

“My biggest problem used to be my social anxiety, which actually got worse after I started attending classes,” Matt from the U of R says. “Mind you, it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be and I’ve grown used to it in most regards, but the not talking thing is still an issue.”

“While it’s definitely not the sole reason, I speculate it’s partly due to how tight-lipped students seems to be around the university,” Matt said. “No one seems to talk to each other unless they have some prior connection. In fact, I’ve only been in one class where there was any sort of general socializing.”

“I don’t know what to attribute this to, this specific university, universities/young adults/city people in general, or if this is just what life is like for everyone. This sort of thing isn’t the type of thing that’ll drive you insane, mind you, but it certainly makes the regular problems (school work, etc.) that much worse.”

Slightly farther from home, Katie from the Atlantic School of Theology in Halifax discusses their struggles.

“I have had a lot of issues with insomnia,”

“The lack of sleep at night forced me to compensate during the day and I would fall asleep in class. It has greatly impacted my quality of work.”

When asked about counselling services at their own university, Katie says they don’t know what the services are like.

“I have not used them as I have heard so many horrible things about the counselling centre on campus, combined with the fact that it is nearly impossible to get in, and the doctors are not educated on LGBTQ2IA+ folks, so I would not feel totally safe there.”

“A lot of my professors have been understanding of my mental health, but not all of them,” Katie says. “I have been attending a trans* support group on campus to help me with my mental health, but it is student-run and deals with my dysphoria rather than my insomnia.”

However, Katie says they find other ways to help their mental health.

“I have found that the use of cannabis has helped me. I smoke it before going to sleep so that I can go to sleep and I have been using copious amounts of caffeine to stay awake during classes.”

So, if a University of Regina student is interested in looking into counseling services, how do they go about booking an appointment?

“For now, they can go online to our website and there would be a step-by-step process for them to book an appointment online,”  saidJenny Keller, the manager of Counselling Services.

. “If they have difficulty with that, there is a tab, ‘contact us’, and it comes through our counselling services email, and we have two clinics, three people monitoring that on a daily basis.”

Upon booking their appointment, Keller says that they get individual, one-on-one, free counselling.

“Everything is free. We don’t charge at all,” Keller said, debunking rumours stating otherwise. “We don’t necessarily place a cap on the amount of sessions that you’re ‘allowed.’ However, we also believe that people aren’t in treatment forever and the best outcomes are usually maintained within the first three joint sessions anyway.”

“I would say the free counselling service has definitely helped me. Just being to speak to someone is extremely helpful, so much that I would argue it’s just as important as my meds,” Matt explained. “However, actually getting an appointment can be a real issue sometimes because of how busy they get during certain times of year.”

While it is known that not all methods of mental health support are going to be effective, seeking out various options of support may help in smaller ways.

“I want to urge everyone, if you are struggling emotionally or with mood, please seek help!” an anonymous U of R student said. “It does not make you any lesser. you are just taking care of yourself!”

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