Humber College students are reaching out and expressing their concerns with the school’s mental health services.Students at Humber College North Campus are complaining about the inaccessibility of mental health services.
Humber College offers a variety of services in order to help students be as successful as possible in their post-secondary academic career. Programs such as counselling and sexual assault services allow students to speak to a professional for free, confidential support. The problem is, many students are either unable to, or do not know how to access these services.
Many students reached out to this reporter to speak about their experiences with the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre (SWAC) at Humber. The reporter heard from over a dozen North Campus students in three days about their encounters with SWAC.
All of the students had either attended counselling offered by SWAC, or had attempted to, but were unsuccessful.
One of those students was Katrina (last name withheld at her request). She is currently in her third year at the University of Guelph-Humber and has reached out to SWAC on more than one occasion.
Katrina suffered from a panic attack on her first day of university two years ago, and when she sought help from SWAC, she was turned away and told to visit the hospital instead.
Since that time, Katrina has revisited SWAC only once. Again, she was experiencing a panic attack, but this time she was able to speak with a nurse who provided her with the help she needed.
Although her most recent experience with SWAC was a positive one, Katrina said,
“I don’t know if I would go there again because I feel like there’s only that one good experience out of the two.”
Katrina said that even before she left the SWAC office, no one explained to her the resources that were available to students if she ever needed further assistance.
Katrina was not even aware of how to schedule an appointment with the school counsellors until the reporter spoke with her and, like many other students, has been paying out-of-pocket to see a counsellor outside of those offered through SWAC.
Katrina is only one of many students who had something to say. Meaghan Morrison is in her fourth year at Guelph-Humber and has been using the disability, counselling, and health services throughout her university career.
Morrison registered with disability services in her first year for anxiety and depression and is currently seeing a doctor provided to her by SWAC.
Morrison said that although she has really benefited from the help of the doctor, the counselling services have not really contributed to the improvement of her mental health.
“In the past, trying to get back to counselling, I found it difficult to get back into it. Not from lack of trying, just the way that it’s set up.”
Morrison explained that the system currently requires students to call for a same- day appointment with a counsellor, which has prevented her from getting the help she needed in the past.
She continued by saying that many times she has called first thing in the morning and the appointments have already been filled for the day, so she would have to wait to try again the following day.
Morrison added that for students like herself who need “consistency and structure,” it is difficult to see a counsellor knowing that you have to call on a day that you are not feeling well, rather than having the appointment to look forward to that week.
Meg Houghton, Associate Dean of Student Wellness and Equity at Humber College, spoke to the concerns that students have regarding mental health services on campus.
Houghton explained that as an educational institution, their role is to support students in order to help them be successful throughout their time at Humber.
“Any post-secondary institution would be ill-placed in thinking that we could or should fully compensate for [the mental health support] gap in the broader public system.”
Houghton continued by saying that SWAC’s goal is to provide students with the best short-term support they can with the resources they have.
Some of those resources include 10 full-time counsellors, three interns, two part- time counsellors, four case managers and a team of mental health nurses.
One way in which SWAC plans to address student concerns is by implementing a triage model during peek periods.
The recent college strike created an increased demand for counselling services. Houghton says that because of this, they thought it would be the optimal time to try out the new model.
Houghton explained that the triage model allows students to be assessed by the reception staff to see what kind of care they need, rather than spending a whole counselling session doing that same assessment.
Houghton also said that SWAC has received very positive feedback regarding the triage model so far.
Additionally, Houghton explained that SWAC wants to receive feedback from students.
“We’re only as good as the information we get back from students. Sometimes I think students are very reluctant to complain but we need to hear it if we’re going to get better.”
Houghton encourages students to email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, to contact SWAC through the Humber “We Got You” website, or to complete the anonymous assessment as they leave the SWAC office.
If you require an appointment with any of SWAC’s Humber North Campus services, please call (416) 675-5090 or visit the Student Wellness Centre located on the second floor of the Learning Resource Centre.