The four Atlantic provinces need to step up with more mental health services for university students, says the new mental health co-ordinator for the Association of Atlantic Universities.

Elizabeth Cawley, who has a PhD in psychiatry, is lobbying each of the region's provinces to contribute $225,000 toward new services for students.

Wait times for face-to-face counselling sessions need to be reduced, Cawley said. Waits vary school to school, but she's heard in some instances students are waiting as long as three months to see a counsellor.

'The issue of urgency is one that really needs to be considered from the student perspective.' - Elizabeth Cawley

"Three months to access community services would be considered exceptional and really fast, but for students, three months represent an entire semester — a semester where if they don't get help it could lead to academic probation or even attrition," she said.

"The issue of urgency is one that really needs to be considered from the student perspective, and them living in this fast-paced, high-demand environment."

UPEI says its wait time for counselling is one to two weeks, and students in crisis can expect a phone call from a counsellor that same day.

Stress, anxiety and depression are three of the most common concerns students raise with counsellors, Cawley said.

Cawley is aiming to set up 24-hour peer support at all 16 Atlantic campuses, 24-hour telephone support and online treatment options.


  • A previous version of this story stated Elizabeth Cawley is a psychiatrist. She has a PhD in psychiatry, but is not a clinical psychiatrist.
    Oct 16, 2017 2:10 PM AT