Deaths on U of O campus prompt call for better mental health resources
Students describe months-long wait for counselling
In the wake of two student deaths in less than a month, the University of Ottawa's student union is calling for improved mental health service on campus.
On April 26, U of O president and vice-chancellor Jacques Frémont released a statement saying a student had died off campus. On Tuesday, Frémont announced another student had died, this time in residence.
"I wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the student's family, friends and classmates during this very difficult time," Frémont said in Tuesday's statement.
No details have been given about either student's death.
Frémont reminded students to take advantage of mental health services, and the newly elected student union has launched a renewed commitment to improving student mental health services on campus.
Student union member Natasha-Lyne Roy said she was told she'd have to wait months for counselling after facing a mental health crisis in March.
"I am scheduled to get my first meeting in July or August," Roy said. "So it's a really long wait list for the school services."
She ended up paying for private therapy because she knew she shouldn't wait.
"It helped me out, but after a while, paying $100 per session, and once a week, it's getting expensive," she said. "There has to be something more that we can do to address this problem."
In April students voted in a referendum to increase student fees going to the university's Student Academic Success Service (SASS), which is responsible for providing on-campus counselling services.
Starting in September, full-time students will start paying $7.43 toward SASS, up from $2.44.
Suicide intervention training
The student union is hoping the university will match that fee increase.
"I think students are good at advocating for what they need," said SASS Manager Geneviève Brabant.
She said the school is working with students involved in the initiative to see how they can expand counselling services to meet student needs.
"Wait times is part of the challenges that we do see."
Roy said students would also like to introduce applied suicide intervention skills training provided by the Ontario Association for Suicide Prevention.
Some administrators at U of O have been trained in suicide intervention, but Roy would like to see professors and other staff given the training as well.
Need help? Here are some mental health resources:
- Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
- Ottawa Suicide Prevention: 613-238-3311