McGill University’s new wellness hub to open May 2019. Photo: CC, Paul Lowry via Wikicommons.
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A dedicated building to mental health services

In February, McGill University announced a major investment into the university’s mental health services in the way of a mental health hub. Construction of the $14-million Rossy Student Wellness Hub is expected to be completed May 2019.

According to the McGill Tribune, the Hub will have 11 staff members trained in check-in procedures, hire four more general practitioners, and will train its six nurses on dealing with mental health crises. The new building will have desks and outlets accessible within the waiting area.

This new Hub was largely planned in response to growing concerns over substance abuse and self-harm in McGill students, according to one interview in the McGill Tribune. The Hub’s website lists early intervention as a major priority. Additionally, 12  local wellness advisors will be added to departments across campus. This centralized model for mental health service access is something that is desperately needed here at the U of O.

The U of O’s entire mental health service team consists of one receptionist, twelve counsellors, and four residence counsellors, all crammed into the fourth floor of Marie-Curie. Patients are asked to triage appointments online, which often leads to long wait times. Recently, Student Academic Success Service (SASS) added a walk-in option, stepped care model, and group therapy.

Nevertheless, a dedicated centre for mental health services would be a welcome and much needed addition to U of O’s campus. The cost of not having one far outweighs the cost of building one, in my opinion. With long wait times at the U of O’s current mental health clinic, students tend to fall between the cracks. Many of my friends have had to wait months to see a counsellor while experiencing some pretty dire situations due to online triage.

In Ottawa Public Health’s Status of Mental Health report from 2018, the need for a dedicated centre for mental health services became apparent. There was a significant increase in the number of hospital visits and hospitalization by students aged 15 to 24 years of age in regards to mental health and addiction-related conditions. Self-harm rates among female students in this age group also went up a staggering 49 per cent from 2012 to 2016.

With a new mental health building located somewhere central on campus, say, where Brooks residence is, students will have quick access to services when they need it, as opposed to being triaged online and being put on a wait list. The walk-in option can still be available, with more space and counsellors to help facilitate concurrent appointments.

With the upcoming tuition cuts proposed by the Ford government, the university may not be able to allocate the funds necessary to make this centre happen. However, it should be noted that the U of O has a $15 million surplus set aside for “future projects”. Although it may be costly, this investment in students is vital, and should be considered as a future project that would help students across the board.