PEI

Student mental health wait times on P.E.I. 'good' say counsellors

Mental health counsellors at Holland College and UPEI say they are seeing an increase in the number of students seeking help and students with more complex mental health issues, but nothing like the "major crisis" being faced in Ontario.

While Ontario campus counsellors are overwhelmed, UPEI and Holland College report they're coping

Student mental health in P.E.I. is not at the crisis level being reported in Ontario, say counsellors at UPEI and Holland College. (iStock)

Mental health counsellors at Holland College and UPEI say they are seeing an increase in the number of students seeking help and students with more complex mental health issues, but nothing like the "major crisis" being faced in Ontario.

Colleges and universities in Ontario are facing a mental health crisis as campus counsellors are overwhelmed by the growing need for services, according to a new study from the provincial association that represents health service providers on campuses in Ontario.

We see the significant homesickness and breakups and those sorts of things.— Treena Smith, UPEI Student Affairs

"We have really good wait times, I think," said Treena Smith with UPEI Student Affairs. She believes the university is serving students well. 

"Typically it's around a one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half week wait time to see a personal counsellor," Smith explained, noting there's a triage system in place to determine if it's an emergency, and if the matter is urgent, the student is dealt with immediately. 

Students at Holland College usually wait a couple of days. 

It's easier to spot a student having a mental health crisis at a small school like U.P.E.I. or Holland College, compared to larger institutions in other provinces, counsellors at the schools agreed. 

'They get to know the students'

"Our class sizes are small," points out June Harper, a counsellor at Holland College. "The instructors may have the students all day long in some programs, so they get to know the students a lot better."

'We have really good wait times,' says UPEI's Treena Smith. (CBC)

The college is also training staff to be able to identify somebody in crisis, and there's an external counselling service available through the student union, with a phone number students can call for help.

"Anxiety, depression, some significant mental health issues," is what counsellors at UPEI are seeing these days, said Smith.

"Then we see the significant homesickness and breakups and those sorts of things," she added. "Students just really having to come up with ways to cope with being away from home for the first time perhaps or increase in stress for academics."

Not just the schools' job

A national conversation about student mental health is a good thing, said Treena Smith, adding that there are other resources students can avail themselves in addition to the university's.

"I don't think we have to look at this just from a university perspective, but I think we have lots of groups in our community that can help us out," said Smith. "We work very closely with the Canadian Mental Health Association P.E.I. unit."

With files from Nancy Russell

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