When crisis calls, call a help-line

Reporter: Sinead Fegan

“The Mental Health Crisis on Campus”, “Off Course on Campuses”. Maclean’s magazine and CBC Toronto have both focused a spotlight on the issue in recent months. The number of students suffering from mental illnesses on campus is growing tremendously.
Recently the province has stepped up to the plate with a new service that has found a ready audience, to help struggling young people.
Students face a unique set of challenges when they’re transitioning from high school to college or university. Most are away from home and on their own for the first time, resulting in a lot of pressure that can be overwhelming. However, mental health is crucial to a student’s success.
One in every five Canadians will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, young people aged 15 to 24 -which covers those of post-secondary age- are more likely to experience these problems than any other generation.
And the problem seems to be growing. In 2011, Ryerson University’s Centre for Student Development and Counsellng services reported a 200 per cent increase in demand from students in crises situations.
Many of the illnesses students develop are anxiety/stress, eating disorders, relationship problems, or substance abuse. Some of them already have diagnosed mental illnesses that are emerging. Others are just discovering them.
The hardest part for some students in college or university is accepting their illness and getting the help they need. Mental illness is still misunderstood by many, so it’s no wonder some students are ashamed and don’t want to admit their problem. However, the earlier people get help, the better the outcome.
In the last year the government has developed a number of initiatives related to the mental health of students.
Good2Talk was launched last October for post-secondary schools across the province as part of the Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities Mental Health Innovation Fund. The help line is a 24/7, free and confidential service to help students with concerns about school life, health or mental well being. The service is also bilingual, and primarily serves those aged 17 to 25.
Since the help-line was created they’ve received a total of 2,896 calls, with 2,276 choosing service for either professional counselling or mental health information and referral. Of that 2,276 people, more students are selecting counselling (1,970), than choosing information and referral (306).
In December the main topic for information and referral calls were undiagnosed help needs (25 per cent). Other reasons for calls included anxiety (11 percent) and mood disorders (11 per cent). In terms of counselling, the leading trend for calls were mental/emotional health (34 per cent), with anxiety being a big one. That was followed by partner relationships (15 per cent), and anything related to school (14 per cent).
The majority of calls are from females (69.7 per cent), then males (29 per cent) followed by transgender or unknown (0.1 per cent). The calls are also coming from more universities (61 per cent), than colleges (22 per cent) and the students are normally between the ages of 19 to 23. Good2Talk’s call volume is normally in the middle of the week.
The ministry funds the help-line, however, four organizations came together to make it happen:
Kids Help Phone, ConnexOntario, Ontario 211 and Ontario Centre of Excellence for Child and Youth Mental Health.
If a student feels they need to access the services they have two options. The first is to dial the direct number, 1-866-925-5454. The second option, a little easier to remember, is dialing 2-1-1. However, if a student calls this number they have to ask to be connected to Good2Talk. They will then be asked what language they prefer, and to choose between 1. professional counselling, or 2. connections to local resources. Whatever option the student picks, they’ll be patched through immediately to speak with someone.
The new help-line is good for students in crisis that need to talk to someone right away. If students don’t want to speak with counsellors in person on-campus or can’t wait for office hours, Good2Talk is just a phone call away.
According to City News Toronto, in addition to Good2Talk the government is planning to introduce 10 other new projects at colleges and universities, to improve access to mental health services, as well as help identify mental health issues and connect students to help faster.
The additional projects can’t come soon enough.