Increased demand for mental health services amongst students
The Langara 2025 Strategic Plan aims to meet the increased need for mental health services on campus
By Charlie Carey
Langara College is currently solidifying its 2025 Strategic Plan, which will aim to provide “effective emotional, physical, and mental well-being supports” for students and employees.
The college has said it is currently in the consultation mode, leaving few details.
Langara’s counselling chair Kerri Janota said the department would like to see continued “robust” support for the current counselling services staff, “to avoid any disruption or reduction in mental health support and programming for students.”
Counselling department see’s noticeable differences amongst students since COVID-19
Though always highly solicited, the counselling department has been particularly stretched since the start of the pandemic, Janota said.
“We have experienced an increase in appointments over the past few months,” she said in an email to The Voice, adding that November is typically the busiest time of year so students can expect to wait up to three weeks for an appointment.
Janota said the student body has been “noticeably affected” by COVID-19.
“Some of the issues that some of our students are struggling with are isolation, financial insecurity, concerns about their health or the health of friends and family, transition to online learning,” she said. “And in some cases onset or exacerbation of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.”
With no certainty when the global pandemic might end, the college may need to adapt its 2025 Strategic Plan to accommodate the current additional strain.
As Langara College shut most services on campus due to COVID, the counselling department must now offer consultations over the phone. It is also providing extra access to online support groups.
Experts say support for students is needed in campuses and beyond
UBC psychology professor Benjamin Cheung said he has seen a similar increase in requests for support at the university.
“I certainly have seen, at least subjectively, an uptick in the number of students who are needing support and who are expressing and experiencing distress.”
Cheung said it is an institution’s responsibility to provide sufficient support to students. He added the number of counselling appointments students make “is vastly dwarfed” by the number of students who actually need assistance.
“At the very bare minimum, there needs to be a sufficient ratio of mental health support providers and students,” he said. “It’s all band-aid solutions before this point.”
Tanysha Klassen, the British Columbia Federation of Students chairperson, said, “There’s a balance that has to be struck with counselling services that happen on campuses.”
However, Klassen noted counselling services are not meant to be an ongoing, wraparound mental health service.
“Because, in an ideal world, we would have those more publicly accessible for people in their day to day lives,” they said.
If you or someone you know is in immediate distress, please call the BC Crisis Centre on 1800-784-2433, or the Mental Health support line on 310-6789. Online