More consistent experiences please. Photo: CC, Dennis Rogers, US Air Force.
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Getting help shouldn’t be the most difficult part of the healing process

My experience with the mental health services team here at the U of O has been overwhelmingly positive. I was able to go in person and schedule an appointment for the following day, and was seen and assessed immediately by a super understanding and caring counsellor.

Which is why it’s so odd to me, that when I suggested to friends that they see someone at the U of O’s mental health service, the experiences they conveyed are so different than mine. And I don’t mean in terms of what happened during their sessions, as everybody is different, but in terms of being seen in a prompt manner and feeling taken care of.

The following quotes are testimonies from students about their experiences with the mental health services here at the U of O, both good and bad, to illustrate some of the inconsistencies that need to be fixed and possible solutions. All of the contributors requested anonymity due to the nature of their situations.

Full submission:

“I was in a rough spot spot with my family. And my family is a basic pillar of my life. It was disastrous, I started spiraling. School means so much to me, but with  someone important to me (my mom) basically ignoring me and not wanting to talk, my grades sunk. Life seemed to be going downhill from there. But it wasn’t me who reached out it was a professor who cared for his students, who would not take my paper and told me to go get a deferral. From there I accessed the school mental health services. I have suffered with mental health problems since I was 8, I attempted suicide because I couldn’t bear  life since I was taking care of myself since both my dad  (who left and got remarried) and my mom (who worked night and day to provide for me) were rarely there, I had to take care of myself at an early age. Since I started treatment at the school, the counselors there had made me realize medications are not a bad thing, and kept suggesting me more help, like a therapists.

Through all these services I managed to accept myself and my issues. I learned to acknowledge that the bad things in my life I did not deserve. They thought me that my parents rarely being there, or my sexual abuse as a kid, or the way I see my self worth wasn’t my fault. The services at the U of O have allowed me to see the great life I have in store.

I still struggle sometimes but the counsellors have given me tips and still do, to see past the negative and seek the positive from it all. They taught me it’s okay to cry and that I don’t deserve mistreatment. There are so many services, like help-groups, one on one sessions, online services, emergency walk-ins. If you are ever in need or it feels like life is unbearable, the U of O mental health services team is there to ensure you know that the struggle you’re feeling is important and that you seeking help is a step in the right direction.

If I hadn’t reached out, I can guarantee that my life would have continued to spiral, who knows where I’d be…. probably six feet under, but because of the University (a professor) who noticed and suggested the mental health services, all the success and happiness I have achieved since then would not have been possible.”

“My experience with the mental health services hasn’t been the easiest process. Scheduling an appointment was a hassle due to the fact that I was told you need a doctor’s recommendation and the fact that mental health services are severely understaffed. In my experience, the wait period can take months and you need to schedule your limited eight appointments immediately or else you’re screwed into a longer wait period. I feel the university should put a bigger focus on mental health services as they’re becoming more important in today’s society.”

“I started having some really dark days, and I actually tried to go to clinics before student services but I was told the wait time to see someone was a year. I contacted the school’s service multiple times and I got transferred and ended up at an answering machine. After trying once or twice, I left a long and detailed message. I never heard back from them so I gave up and decided I had to deal with my concerns on my own.”

“My experience with mental health services was not very good. I waited all of first year to see a counsellor and was never contacted. I was referred by my doctor. I finally got an appointment second semester of second year. When I contacted them about my referral they never returned my calls. It was unprofessional.

At one point there was a Twitter thread going around about mental health services at universities and I added to it. Someone from health services screenshotted the tweet and sent it to me via email giving me a list of other services around Ottawa. All of which I contacted and never heard anything more from. I eventually went to see a residence counsellor which was good, but she all of a sudden disappeared and I never heard from her again when I emailed her.”

Access to mental health services in Ottawa needs to be far less difficult and way more consistent than it is now. Going to see a counsellor in the first place takes a lot of strength, actually accessing help shouldn’t be the most difficult process.