Concordia Pledges More Services For Students’ Mental Health

School to Address In-House Services Over Next Five Years, After Health and Wellness Report Recommendations

  • Out of the various recommendations made, one of the most demanding may be requiring a culture shift on campus from a “survival of the fittest” mentality to a focus on health and wellbeing. Stock photo Claire Loewen

Concordia is looking to improve health services on campus, after Concordia President Alan Shepard commissioned a report in the school’s health and wellness services last fall.

The Student Health and Wellbeing Review was called to respond to an increase in the number of students using health services and the school’s counselling and psychological services.

“Culture change is going to be a long term issue,” said Lisa Ostiguy, the special advisor to the provost on campus life.

Ostiguy said the university will be looking to apply all of the recommendations made in the report, such as providing more services on campus to aid mental and physical health, though the report did not mention what funding will be allotted to meet the recommendations made.

When asking about funding needed to meet the recommendations, University Spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr said, “We are still reviewing the resources needed to follow up on the recommendations.”

“I think the more we can raise awareness that it’s not just a health service issue or a health promotion campaign [but] it’s really imbedding an approach to student health and wellbeing across everything—in classes, in services,” said Ostiguy, who will also oversee a five-year plan to address the report’s recommendations.

Many of the recommendations involved suggestions such as providing calm spaces, where students can nap and relax, and offering a fall reading week, which the university can begin to implement in the near future. However, one of the most demanding recommendations may be that the culture on campus must change from a “survival of the fittest” mentality to a focus on health and wellbeing.

“The student health and wellbeing review included hiring a consulting group to do an external scan for us,” said Lisa Ostiguy. “In their report, they reported that in North America there’s been an increase in diagnosis both at the early age and at the college age.”

Ostiguy said a greater number of students are requiring services for mental health problems in comparison to previous years. While unfortunate, she added it’s beneficial those who need help are seeking it earlier on. This means more people are coming to universities with already existing conditions, such as stress, anxiety, and sleep problems, said Ostiguy.

“Culture change is going to be a long term issue.”
— Lisa Ostiguy, the special advisor to the provost on campus life.

In 2013, Concordia, along with other 31 other universities, participated in a National College Health Assessment. The results found that within the past 12 months, 52.6 per cent of students had difficulty or found it traumatic to deal with academics, with 36.9 feeling the same way with finances. 33 per cent reported stress within intimate relationships and 31.9 per cent reported stress related to their career.

To develop recommendations the school conducted twelve interviews with 30 different people of varying specialties and skills from within and outside the Concordia community.

Many of the recommendations suggested the university provide a calm environment for students to de-stress, like quiet areas to nap, women only areas, and more access to recreational spaces.

Suggestions also touched on limiting the number of exams students can take in a day, implementing a fall reading-week and assessing students not solely on academics. There was also suggestions to promote self-care and extra curricular involvement.

Ostiguy said the university is not yet certain if they will expand the amount of staff and racial diversity within their Campus Wellness and Support Services to provide aid to more students of varying experiences.

Read More:
Concordia’s Mental Health Services: Little Diversity and Long Wait Times

“We’re going to look at it with the recommendations I think we’re going to look at the best possible ways that we can go about delivering services and where the best investment would be in staffings.”

She said she understands the university needs to make an investment in this, but they are not yet certain how to do it.

“One thing that were also looking at is there’s services in each of those areas that need support but there are also ways to take services out of those areas and embed them into faculties and departments,” said Ostiguy. “We could have students get the right care at the right time and the right place.”

She said they are looking to instead embed these services into departments instead.

“[Students] may feel very uncomfortable coming downtown to receive a service if they are a Loyola student, but [they may be] if there was an imbedded service in the faculty or
department,” said Ostiguy. “We’re looking at different ways to support our students”

A donation from the Rossy Foundation will be put towards funding the embedded wellness advisor program, which will make these services available through departments or faculties.

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