Students don’t feel adequately supported by mental health services at York

(Photo by Finn on Unsplash)

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) reports that those most likely to experience mental illness and/or substance use disorders are young people aged 15 – 24 years old, and that suicide is the second leading cause of death, after accidents.

With this in mind, the York student community has also been facing added tensions as student unions have been battling with the administration, in addition to the multiple protests and walkouts that have been arranged by various groups. That is not to say that demonstrations or protests should not be organized; only that these factors affect student mental health and well-being. And York students have been feeling it.

“I don’t think York does enough when it comes to mental health,” states Cecilia MacDonald, a student at York. “For students at large, but especially for disabled students. There’re nearly no spaces for us to go if there’s an emergency. It’s all appointment-based, which isn’t exactly helpful if someone is having an anxiety attack.”

The Ontario Human Rights Commission has identified students with disabilities as especially at risk for not receiving adequate care or support in the education system and the workforce. It has also set out policies and guidelines to make education more accessible.

“If I, as an autistic person, am having a shutdown, which is involuntary and poses very real danger to me, there’s nowhere I can really go,” MacDonald highlights. “I mean this in a literal sense — there is no safe space for us on campus. Shutdowns, in my experience, are incredibly exhausting. You’re spending an indefinite amount of time panicked and half-conscious of what’s happening around you. Recovering from one can take hours to a whole day. It’s scary not being in full control of your faculties, and even worse knowing that there’s nowhere to calm down or recover,” they continue. 

MacDonald isn’t the only student feeling that York is falling behind when it comes to accessibility and adequate support. When asked on the r/yorku subreddit whether students felt the university was adequately supporting its students in terms of mental health services as well as accommodations — as these topics often go hand-in-hand — many feel that it isn’t.

“University, as a medium towards delivering these services, unfortunately falls short,” states an anonymous student. “I think it’s safe to say and consider that our academic services to almost be a litmus test with even our other counselling services. 

“I’ve seen Instagram and other social media platforms attempt to capture youth with the integration of online mental health services like Betterhelp, which I believe hasn’t helped people, but actively made them feel they’ve been turned away because of how inaccessible or expensive those services are. The same can even be said for big name services that are reputable like CAMH. But the wait times and referrals for those services are around three months. And students who might need these services sometimes can’t exactly wait,” they explain. 

This student is correct when they state it can take months to receive care, as reported by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) and various news outlets. Accessibility is the first step in receiving care, and the anonymous student is also quick to point this out. 

“I feel that students themselves are uninformed about the usage of the services due to the nature of the busyness that comes with school, and so people neglect these aspects of their health,” the student adds. “I think the generalized student population doesn’t even know how to utilize their insurance plan as a starters. The school, I feel, doesn’t make it a priority or a major effort as the student as an agent still has to do a considerable amount of work and effort if they want to make their mental health a priority.”

Students can find information on counselling and other services available at York U here.

Health Education and Promotion Services at York also host workshops and wellness classes which can be found here.

Information on York U Health & Dental Plans can be found here
The Government of Canada has also provided resources here.

About the Author

By Jeanette Williams

Photo/Video Editor

Jeanette is in her third year double majoring in Film and English at York University with a keen interest in science and technology. She loves to write and aspires to be a showrunner or major writer for a TV series or documentary filmmaker. When Jeanette isn’t writing or studying, she is watching documentaries on anything related to politics, the health industry, or true crime.


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