B.C. post-secondary students to get 24/7 mental-health support

The B.C. government recently put out a notice of planned procurement for a new mental health service

A new 24-hour mental-health support line for students will soon be coming to B.C. The B.C. government recently posted a notice of planned procurement on their website, BC Bid, looking to find a company to create the software.

At the time of writing this, there is no province-wide resource available to post-secondary students and where there are resources many students often lack any type of after-hours access.

When asked about this new program, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training Melanie Mark said that the B.C. government understands that pursuing a post-secondary education can be very stressful.

“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” Mark said.  “Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus. That’s why our government is working to develop a mental health service that is available to students around the clock, province-wide.”

The project hopes to create a service that includes phone, online chat, text and email capabilities. It comes at a crucial time for students, with recent statistics showing a need for the system.

The 2016 National College Health Association survey of Canadian post-secondary students found a significant number of students are experiencing mental-health problems and illnesses.

In the survey, 44.4 per cent of students reported that at some point in the previous 12 months they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”; 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide; 2.1 per cent had attempted suicide; and 18.4 per cent reported being “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety.

Another survey was done by the Canadian Mental Health Association showing the need for a system for even younger students.

15,000 grade 7 to 12 students in British Columbia were asked a multitude of questions with the following results: 34 per cent knew of someone who had attempted or died by suicide, 16 per cent had seriously considered suicide and 14 per cent had made a suicide plan. Additionally, seven per cent had made an attempt and two per cent had required medical attention due to an attempt.

A Statistics Canada study also found that for people between 15 to 34, suicide was the second leading cause of death, preceded only by accidents.

Because they do not generally die from natural causes, suicide represents a relatively large percentage of all deaths for younger age groups (15 to 34). In 2009, 202 individuals aged 15 to 19 committed suicide in Canada.

That number has grown exponentially with more than 5,800 Canadian children and youth having died by suicide during the past 13 years in Canada — some as young as 8 years old, according to data compiled by a Toronto Star/Ryerson School of Journalism investigation from coroners’ offices in all provinces and territories except Nunavut.