Need decent mental health services

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 19, 2008 Ed Cartoon

After years of ignoring the budget for mental health services, Western is still facing a crisis in the availability of counselling, with students in need being turned away.

While the university makes every effort to help students in crisis, those with chronic and long-term mental health problems are being pushed to the back of the line and are thus unable to get the help they need.

It’s understandable that the university’s top priority might not be mental health counselling; services like the new recreation centre and physical health can easily be utilized to attract prospective students, whereas mental health services are not such a good draw for prospective students.

However, administration’s responsibilities to students extend beyond simply luring them. Once students arrive at Western, the university has a responsibility to provide the services needed for all aspects of their health.

Further, it is in the university’s best interest to provide these services, not only for the good of its students, but for the school’s reputation. Students suffering from psychological problems are extremely likely to have their grades affected, and even to drop out of school. As such, student performance, and Western’s prestige are indirectly tied to sound mental health.

There is a stigma surrounding mental health problems as simply being more severe forms of depression and other mental illness and the university needs to do what it can to break that stigma. That means dealing with smaller problems as well and remembering that sometimes students just need someone to talk to other than their roommate.

Administration only perpetuates the stigma when it does not put the effort into adequately treating students seeking counselling, specifically by bumping chronic problems to the back of the list.

The university age, 18-24, is a point in life where many problems begin to manifest themselves, and prompt attention to mental health concerns are especially important at this age.

Physical health gets the attention needed " it is fairly easy to book a doctor’s appointment on campus. Mental health is still being largely ignored, though, and this undermines a commitment Western ought to have: dealing with mental health as a legitimate issue.

Furthermore, physical health treatment is available off campus at any walk-in clinic or the hospital, whereas mental health treatment is inaccessible in the London community as well due to long wait times.

As such, it is imperative the university work to improve Western’s psychological services. While this will involve a re-calibration of the budget or increased student fees, it cannot be denied that this issue is important enough to warrant the resources.

Western’s administration must therefore invest in improving counselling services on campus.

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