University and college students who feel stressed, isolated or overwhelmed will have more mental health professionals and services to stay mentally healthy.
The University of Alberta, University of Calgary and University of Lethbridge will each receive $3 million in grant funding over three years to expand campus mental health services and develop models of care that can be used on campuses across Alberta.
The Alberta Students Executive Council will receive $1.5 million over three years to support all post-secondary students’ associations in implementing mental health programs.
“Helping students learn to cope is just as important as helping them learn. If students come forward to seek help, the resources need to be there,” said Fred Horne, Minister of Health. “This is an investment in the mental health of our next generation of community leaders.”
The $10.5 million in funding will help expand campus mental health services through additional staff - including psychologists, physiologists, clinical social workers, physicians, psychiatric nurses, counselors, and mental health practitioners. Initiatives set to begin as a result of the funding include developing a mental health curriculum and piloting a mental health triage program. The grants will also pay for staff training on mental health issues.
In a study during the spring 2011 term, students at the University of Alberta reported a higher level of mental health issues than the North American average. Just over 1 per cent of students reported a suicide attempt, and around 7 per cent seriously thought of suicide. At the University of Calgary, severe psychiatric disorders have increased 5.6 times since 2005-06. At the University of Lethbridge there has been a 76 per cent increase in booked counseling sessions in the past five years.
The announcment was welcomed by the University of Lethbridge.
“The University of Lethbridge puts tremendous emphasis on the student experience,” said Mike Mahon, University of Lethbridge president. “This includes ensuring timely and comprehensive mental health supports are available for our students. This investment greatly benefits the U of L students at our three campuses in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge by helping those with immediate problems and by mitigating future issues using preventative measures.”