Students speak of long wait times for counselling appointments at U of T
Published Tuesday, March 19, 2019 9:08PM EDT Last Updated Tuesday, March 19, 2019 9:12PM EDT
Students are speaking out about the accessibility of mental health resources on campus one day after a silent protest was held at the University of Toronto.
On Monday, hundreds of students gathered outside the president’s office at the university, demanding more resources amid what they say is a growing mental health crisis.
Students said that there are long waits to speak with a counsellor over the phone or to book an appointment.
Nadia Blackwood told CTV News Toronto on Tuesday that she struggled last year as a first-year student and reached out for help.
“I let them know I was suffering and that I wanted to speak with a counsellor and they told me it would take about three weeks to get an orientation just to see if I could get a counsellor.”
Bella Shulman said she was able to get an appointment, but was told she would have to wait another six months for help.
“It’s really hard,” Shulman said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. When you are actually reaching out, you go there, you make your appointment, you feel like you are getting somewhere just to be shut down and told there is literally nothing we can do for you.”
The Chief Youth Officer at Kids Help Phone and Good 2 Talk, a service geared specifically to post-secondary students, said that her counsellors held 28,000 sessions with students last year.
“When young people are experiencing distress, they need support right away,” Alisa Simons said. “Ultimately, we would prefer that we were making referrals to students where they will be able to get in. What we usually say is there may be a wait time, but you can contact us as many times as you want when you’re on that waiting list.”
In a statement, Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost of the University of Toronto, said they realize the “growing need for mental health services” on campus and in the community.
“We continue to put in place measures to help students who we know are facing a range of mental health issues,” she said. “We are offering counselling to various student groups, and crisis workers are also available. We also continue to work closely with our community partners to offer additional supports and resources for our students.”
Anyone suffering from mental illness or suicidal thoughts should reach out to one of Ontario’s crisis or distress centres. The phone number for the Toronto Distress Centre is 416-408-4357.
The phone number for Good 2 Talk’s helpline is 1-866-925-5454.
With files from CTV News Toronto's Heather Wright