News: Why Canadian college and university campuses need stronger mental health support

Over the weekend, a 20-year-old University of Guelph student reportedly tried to kill himself while hundreds of people watched in


Over the weekend, a 20-year-old University of Guelph student reportedly tried to kill himself while hundreds of people watched in an online forum. The student had announced on the chat room message board that he intended to broadcast his suicide live (I won’t get in to the disturbing fact that 200 people viewed the video live, with some users even egging him on). He then lit a fire in his dorm room and was seen crawling into bed. A fire was reported at 8 p.m. on Saturday and the Guelph Fire Department responded and were able to extinguish the fire. The student was taken to the hospital with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.

This news reinforces something we already know: mental health is a huge issue on campuses. In fact, mental health is the biggest health problem on Canadian campuses. According to a 2013 report from the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services, nearly nine in 10 students reported that in the past 12 months they "felt overwhelmed by all they had to do." More than half of students (57 percent) "felt overwhelming anxiety," and 38 percent "felt so depressed that it was difficult to function." Nearly 10 percent said they  had "seriously considered suicide," and one percent of the students surveyed had attempted suicide. That means approximately 340 of the 34,039 students from 32 schools who filled out the assessment had attempted suicide. That’s approximately 10 students per school ‘ a shocking, yet not entirely surprising number.

A W5 report from September of this year found that mental health issues are increasing year after year on Canadian college and university campuses. In 2010, first-year Queen’s University student Jack Windeler committed suicide; three more students died by suicide at the same university that year. Soon after Windeler’s unexpected suicide, his family founded The Jack Project, a charitable organization committed to opening up the conversation on mental health.

Suicide is preventable, and yet, according to experts, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people. (Motor vehicle accidents are number one.) One of the reasons may be that youth and students aren’t getting help when they need it; they shouldn’t feel alone though: 25 percent of university-age Canadians will experience a mental health problem such as stress, anxiety or depression.

Social media has become a useful tool in opening up dialogue on mental health issues. The Bell Let’s Talk campaign encourages Canadians to help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness by talking about it on Twitter and through text message, while Healthy Minds Canada uses Facebook and Twitter to engage with Canadians and spread information about mental health resources.

If you or someone you know needs support please reach out. You can visit the following links for support services in Canada.
Canadian Mental Health Association: Getting Help
Mood Disorders Society of Canada
Healthy Minds Canada

How Canadians are impacted by mental illness
Mental health: How to cope
Depression: How to cope at work