Post-secondary students to get 24/7 mental-health support

Melanie Mark

WORK is underway to develop a virtual mental health counselling, information and referral service for post-secondary students of all ages throughout British Columbia.

A notice of planned procurement has been posted to BC Bid, advising of plans to develop a 24/7 mental health and substance-use counselling and referral service. A competitive process will be posted shortly.

“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus. That’s why our government is working to develop a mental-health service that is available to students around the clock, provincewide.”

Presently, there is no provincewide resource available to post-secondary students and where there are resources, students often lack after-hours access.

“It’s critical to provide young people with access to the supports they need, where and when they need them,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “The use of virtual technology would enable young people from all parts of the province to ask for help once and get help fast.”

The scope of the project is for a service that includes phone, online chat, text and email capabilities.

“Government is responding to pressure from students to take action on improving mental health services,” said Noah Berson, chairperson of the Alliance of BC Students. “No one schedules a time when they need support, so it’s good that a service will be available outside of regular hours for students, regardless of where they’re studying in the province.”

“Expanded mental health services are in demand for post-secondary students in B.C.,” said Aran Armutlu, chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students. “Having more options for counselling and other services available, and having 24/7 access to these services, is a welcome addition to the changes this government is making for students.”

Post-secondary students, aged 15-24, are more likely to report mental illness and/or substance-use disorders than other age groups. The 2016 National College Health Association survey of Canadian post-secondary students found a significant number of students are experiencing mental-health problems and illnesses: 44.4% of surveyed students reported that at some point in the previous 12 months they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”; 13% had seriously considered suicide; 2.1% had attempted suicide and 18.4% reported being “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety.

The 24/7 service is in addition to several other planned initiatives in 2019 to strengthen mental-health supports for post-secondary students.

A copy of the notice to planned procurement is available online: https://www.bcbid.gov.bc.ca/open.dll/

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