After a rigorous process, the B.C. government announced that they have selected Morneau Shepell to develop a free mental health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students throughout British Columbia. The new referral service will allow students the opportunity to not only thrive academically but also mentally.
According to the announcement on Jan. 28, students will soon be able to access counselling services either online or via the phone 24 hours a day seven days a week.
“Mental health is an issue our government takes seriously,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “Post-secondary students have told me there is a gap in mental health support services. The stress students feel at university or college can be significant, and can lead to serious isolation and potentially deadly outcomes. I am proud that our government is responding to this call to action by creating a place for students to reach out for help 24/7.”
This mental health service will mean for the first time in B.C., every student – whether rural, urban, domestic, international, public, private, full-time or part-time – will have access to 24/7 services to supplement services on campus and in the community.
“Many students struggle to access mental health support; there are long wait times for on-campus counsellors, and in many communities, there are very limited options for off-campus support,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “Students were excited when the government initially announced this initiative, and the selection of the provider brings it one step closer to implementation.”
“A survey of students by the National College Health Association found that over 59.6 percent of Canadian students reported feeling things were hopeless, and 89.5 percent of students felt overwhelmed by the amount of work they had to do in the previous year,” the British Columbia Federation of Students expressed in a press release following the announcement. “This record investment in student support will go a long way to provide students with more tailored support and get students who require long-term support into community-based programs.”
“Many students don’t come forward and ask for the help they need because of the stigma that still surrounds mental health issues,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This service will meet young people where they are at and provide them immediate access to someone to talk to, without shame or judgement.”
Leading up to the launch of this new service in the Spring of 2020, the ministry will take the time to engage with students and post-secondary institutions on the design of the service.
The three-year contract has a budget of $1.5 million per year.
Morneau Shepell administers the largest clinical network in Canada. It has delivered mental health solutions since 1974 and services more than 20,000 organizations worldwide. Morneau Shepell supports more than 3,800 clients across all services in B.C. and more than 200 post-secondary institutions across North America, directly and via partnerships, through its student support programs.
Improving mental health in schools is an integral part of government’s actions outlined in A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap for making the system of mental health and addictions care better for people no matter where they live in the province. Implementing A Pathway to Hope is a shared priority with the BC Green Party caucus and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
“This service will save lives,” said Eleanor Vannan, BCFS Campaigns Coordinator. “We are hopeful that talking about mental health struggles openly will also help de-stigmatize mental health issues and show students who are struggling that they are not alone.”