National survey shows state of student mental health

Results compiled from 41 post-secondary institutions across Canada

Mental health continues to be a top issue for many post-secondary students, with 18 per cent of students reporting a diagnosis or treatment for depression within the last twelve months, according to a new survey.

In September, the Canadian Association of College and University Student Services (CACUSS) released the findings of its National College Health Assessment (NCHA) survey, the most comprehensive data-set ever collected regarding Canadian post-secondary students mental health this past September.

While 46 per cent of students who completed the NCHA survey were categorized as having positive mental health, the survey also found that over 13 per cent of the students surveyed reported seriously considering suicide within the past 12 months. 14 per cent of students surveyed said they had a diagnosis or treatment for anxiety within the last 12 months.

“These are alarming statistics,” said Ontario NDP MPP Peggy Sattler, in a September interview with The Dialog. Sattler said that the Ontario Liberals are focusing on their tuition policy instead of making addressing mental health on campus.

“We know, yes, students do worry—and with good reason—about their finances and how they will afford to pay student debt, but that is not the answer to the crisis in campus mental health that we’re seeing.”

Kate Klein, research and education co-ordinator for George Brown College, expressed optimism about the growing conversation around mental health on campus. Klein said that in her three years with George Brown she has noticed a “tremendously positive shift.”

For Klein, action on mental health is not just an area for councillors and requires a proactive rather than reactive response. Klein said that since there was no “clear divide between academic and personal stress” for students, it’s important for staff and faculty to recognize the unique ways their own individual programs can discuss issues surrounding student mental health.

Counselling at George Brown College remains a free and confidential service, available to all enrolled full-time students with no need for an official diagnosis.

According to the survey, 14.8 per cent of students reported being treated or diagnosed for depression within the last 12 months, but 20.8 per cent admitted to depression affecting their academics. A larger statistic, points towards 44.4 per cent of students having at least one depressive episode wherein they felt too depressed to function.

The survey, which featured responses from students at forty-one Canadian institutions, is a significant jump in data gathered from a previous data-set by CACUSS in 2013. Over 43,000 students responded to the NCHA online survey this past spring. The data collected will help CACUSS in the creation of national health initiatives.

With files from Steve Cornwell


National survey shows state of student mental health