November 13, 2023

The Urgent Need for Investment in On-Campus Mental Health Services for a Resilient Canada (SDG 3)

Life on campus can be a thrilling and transformative experience for learners. But it can also be a time of intense stress and pressure. The demands of coursework, social expectations and the challenges of newfound independence for youth can take a significant toll on a learner’s mental health. These challenges are even more pronounced for older learners as they juggle existing careers and family responsibilities. 

In recent years, stress related to factors such as climate change, the pandemic, and digital culture have intensified mental health conditions and placed them at the forefront of the wellness conversation. The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reports that young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders than any other age group (CAMH, 2023). We also know that every 1 in 2 students accesses mental health services through their post-secondary institution, but students cite wait times as the biggest barrier to accessing these supports (CASA, 2022) 

In an ever-evolving world, the well-being of Canada’s future leaders – its learners – is vital. This is underscored in Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, ‘Good Health and Well-Being,’ which accentuates the role of well-being in shaping our collective future. 

Our Commitment: 

Recognizing its vital importance, colleges and institutes are eager to enhance their efforts in fostering a safe and supportive environment for students facing mental health challenges. For instance: 

  • North West College announced it will provide comprehensive tutoring and mental health services for students, thanks to a funding boost from Cenovus Energy. 
  • Holland College recently celebrated the launch of the Thrive campaign to support the establishment of a visible and accessible centre for student wellness, resilience, and success today. 
  • Red River College ‘Healthy Minds, Healthy College’ program is at the centre of their college-wide mental health strategy, delivering essential resources for stress management, counselling services, and mental health workshops to support their students’ well-being. 
  • Kenjgewin Teg has introduced a new program that equips learners with a diverse range of foundational skills, while supporting their emotional, spiritual, physical, and mental health. 
  • Georgian College has a robust mental health and wellness strategic plan that includes counselling services, workshops, and events to promote mental well-being.  
  • Cégep de Saint-Laurent has implemented a mental health strategy encompassing counselling services, workshops, and awareness campaigns, along with a ‘Psychosocial Support’ program to aid students in managing their mental well-being.

Colleges and institutes have also been advocating for on-campus mental health services and a stepped-care model that ensures students receive the right support at the right time. We want to see a holistic approach, combining counselling with various mental health supports, connecting students with their communities, integrating cultural practices, and supporting research. Furthermore, our involvement in initiatives like the National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being underscores our commitment to creating safe and supportive learning environments.

The Need for Urgent Action: 

While colleges and institutes are dedicated to supporting their students, addressing the severity of mental health challenges requires government commitment and coordinated efforts with adequate resources. 

The Liberal Party of Canada’s 2021 platform commitment to invest $500 million over four years for on-campus mental health counsellors is a significant step in the right direction. However, we are eagerly awaiting action. 

Our Call to Action: 

CICan and its members are urging the Government of Canada to fulfil its commitments as soon as possible, recognizing that Canada’s success hinges on our learners’ ability to receive the personalized mental-health support they need. It’s important we act now to ensure the strength and resilience of our learners can propel Canada forward. You can learn more about our recommendations in Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance – Pre-budget Consultations in Advance of Budget 2024.