Mental health petition creator 'really glad' at UW response

Nicole St. Clair started a petition asking the University of Waterloo to do more to help students' mental health and says she's pleased the school's administration appears to be taking the issue seriously.

Petition urging University of Waterloo to do more for mental health reaches 10,000 signatures

The Social Development Lab from the University of Waterloo is trying to learn how temperament affects children's social and emotional development. (University of Waterloo)

The student behind a petition asking the University of Waterloo to do more to support students' mental health says she's pleased the school's administration is taking the issue seriously.

Nicole St. Clair is a second-year political science student. She didn't know the student who died by suicide in the school's residence earlier this week, but nevertheless, she was affected by it.

"I really just wanted to do something. I couldn't just sit back," she said.

St. Clair posted the petition online Monday night.

"We need to create a culture of mental wellness on campus," the petition's description reads. "We need to reduce wait time for those students that are struggling and reaching our for help. We need assistance in transitioning from high school to university. We need preventative measures so we don't continue to lose students. We need mental health education."
Nicole St. Clair is a second year political science student at the University of Waterloo. She started a petition urging the school to do more to help students with mental health issues. (Facebook)

Stigma around mental health

St. Clair said she wasn't sure what the reaction would be – she thought maybe the petition would get 500 signatures.

As of 2 p.m. Friday, it had more than 10,500.

St. Clair said she felt like the issue resonates with students because it's an issue everyone knows about, but rarely discusses.

"I think there's a lot of stigma around mental health in general, and especially on campus," she said.

On Thursday, University of Waterloo president Feridun Hamdullahpur penned an open letter to staff, faculty and students saying talks are taking place.

"I anticipate receiving an online petition, and numerous discussions are taking place in traditional and social media. This conversation requires many voices," Hamdullahpur wrote.
Feridun Hamdullahpur, the president of the University of Waterloo, wrote a letter to students, faculty and staff in the wake of a second student death by suicide this semester. (Andrea Bellemare/CBC)

'Keep the conversation going'

St. Clair said she was happy the school is taking the issue seriously.

"We're really, really glad that the university's recognizing the issue and responding to the petition and we're working together to find the best solutions and keep the conversation going," she said.

Final exams are approaching, which is a stressful time for students. But after that is the summer term, when far fewer students are on campus.

But St. Clair said she will be on campus during the summer months and she plans to remain in contact with the university's administration.

"I'll be around to do my best to keep the conversation going," she said.