U of T’s newly formed Student Mental Health Task Force organized in-person consultations at UTM last week as part of their feedback process to improve student mental health services.

On March 28, U of T President Meric Gertler announced a four-part plan to enhance student mental health and wellness services to all three campuses.

The first phase of the four-part plan is assembling a Task Force on Student Mental Health, which includes conducting a series of Outreach and Engagement programs to gather feedback on the Task Force’s four key areas of focus.

The four key areas include reviewing the current mental health services at campuses and making recommendations, reviewing the internal coordination of student support groups, reviewing and strengthening the community-stationed organizations and hospitals, and examining the physical spaces of mental health services. 

“Student mental health is a serious issue here and at many university campuses,” says Trevor Young, Vice-provost and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine chairing the Student Mental Health Task Force.

“This is a real opportunity for students to share their experiences, learn about available services, and work with us to broaden our reach and improve our system.”

On September 19, as part of the Outreach & Engagement plan, in-person consultations were held at UTM with separate time slots allotted to students, staff, and faculty, and a targeted group student engagement session.

The in-person consultations invited the UTM community to share their input and recommendations for the Task Force’s initiative on student mental health in a face-to-face, open discussion environment.

To gather the major concerns for student mental health at UTM, The Medium attended the open group student engagement session led by U of T’s Innovation Hub.

Over ten students attended the focus group session at Spigel Hall in the Davis Building. Upon entering, the Innovation Hub administer assured students their feedback would be confidential.

Students who participated at the group session mainly expressed that student mental health care is hard to access on campus while student enrollment continues to rise.

Issues with the Health & Counselling Centre’s long waiting list, its location at the basement of the Davis Building, and its website inaccessibility were also brought up.

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, 75 per cent of people living with mental health problems reported they first surfaced between the ages of 16 and 25.

In Ontario, Health Canada reports that approximately 80 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 are attending college or university.

These statistics show a prevalence of mental illnesses at post-secondary institutions.  

As part of the Outreach & Engagement Plan an open online consultation form inviting feedback from the U of T community on the four key focus areas is also available until October 15 on their website.

The other phases of the four-part plan include building a “culture of support” for students with information on student experience gathered by the Undergraduate Student Educational Experience (USEE) Expert Panel and School of Graduate Studies (SGS); working with Toronto health system partners for better student mental health services, and communicating with the provincial government about the need for more university student mental health resources.

The Task Force will gather feedback received from the consultation sessions and will provide recommendations to the President & Provost by December 2019 for the second phase of the four-part plan.

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