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Mental health services see surge in demand as University of Calgary launches campus-wide plan

With a growing demand for mental health services on campus, the University of Calgary is launching a campus-wide plan for student, faculty and staff.

Counselling appointments at Students’ Union Wellness Centre up 29%

Jennifer Thannhauser, a registered psychologist at the SU Wellness Centre, says many students seeking support are working multiple jobs and stressed out by trying to afford living in Calgary while paying for tuition and keeping up with their studies. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

With a growing demand for mental health services on campus, the University of Calgary is launching a campus-wide plan for student, faculty and staff.

The Students' Union Wellness Centre has seen a steady rise in the number of students seeking counselling support, with 1,445 appointments in the first three months of the fall term, up from 1,118 in the same period last year.

That's an increase of 29 per cent.

"The demand for services is really quite high," said Jennifer Thannhauser, a registered psychologist at the SU Wellness Centre. "We see high stress, anxiety, depression."

Many students seeking support are "working multiple jobs, trying to afford just living in Calgary and afford school," she added.

Kiran Grant, a second-year student studying health sciences, is involved in a peer-support program at the SU Wellness Centre and said many young people are self-conscious about coming in person to seek help but there are many other avenues available.

Kiran Grant, a second-year student at the University of Calgary, is involved in a peer-support program at the SU Wellness Centre. (Evelyne Asselin/CBC)

"So, if it's care that's online or via text message, we're very comfortable communicating that way," he said.

"That would allow our large commuter population to have access to mental health services even when they're not on campus."

Overall, the Wellness Centre says it has increased its counselling resources by 50 per cent this year.

The new strategy has been in the works since last year, prompted in part by a 2013 campus-wide survey that returned results provost Dru Marshall described as "alarming."

Of the surveyed students, 90 per cent said they had felt overwhelmed, 64 per cent had felt lonely and 58 per cent had felt overpowering anxiety at some point over the previous 12 months.

The survey also found eight per cent said they had seriously considered suicide, and 18 per cent reported having been diagnosed or treated by a professional for a mental-health condition.

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