University of Toronto students hold silent protest for more mental health services
Hundreds of students stood in silence outside the president’s office at the University of Toronto demanding more resources for what they say is a growing mental health crisis.
The protest began around 2 p.m. on Monday, with students standing outside at King’s College Circle holding signs that said “this crisis will never be solved without our voice” and “silence can still be heard.” They later went inside and sat in the hallway outside the president’s office.
The entire protest was held in silence.
“There were two suicides in less than twelve months in the same place and nothing has changed,” said Kailyn Henderson, an engineering student at the University of Toronto. “I think that something definitely needs to change.”
Students say they don’t feel the university is doing enough to address mental health. They are asking for more resources and more counsellors, saying there are long waits to speak with someone over the phone or to book an appointment.
Anam Alvi, a computer science student, said she was on campus when she heard that someone had died by suicide on Sunday. She told CTV News Toronto that she wants the university to overhaul its approach to mental health.
“It’s hard to think that someone in our community was suffering so much, right beside us,” Alvi said. “Acknowledge what's happening with the students and take action on it. I want them to provide better resources for students.”
Janine Robb, the executive director of health and wellness at the University of Toronto, says there are resources available for those who need them.
“I think we have to encourage students to ask for help, ask for help often and if something’s changing while you’re waiting, call us back. We’re nimble, we’re flexible, we are not wanting anyone to suffer.”
But students say they are suffering and are asking for help.
“We need to make people realize that they are not alone,” said another student. “That they are going to be safe.”
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.
With files from CTV News Toronto's Heather Wright