Mental health supports could be moving off campus by 2020
SAMRU is surprised and saddened by the recent funding announcement
By Amy Simpson, Contributor
Maintaining your mental health is already difficult while dealing with the the stress of university, and, unfortunately, the Student Association of Mount Royal University (SAMRU) is concerned recent funding decisions could add extra challenges for students in 2020 seeking help.
Mount Royal University was recently allocated $840,000 in mental health funds by the provincial government over the next three years. Although the total has increased slightly from previous years, it has come with a number of concerns. According to SAMRU, MRU received the smallest amount out of all post-secondary institutions and one third of it will go towards transitioning mental health supports off campus in 2020.
In total, the province allocated $25.8-million across post-secondary institutions in Alberta. MRU is far from the smallest student body, but they have found themselves at the bottom of the list.
The University of Lethbridge on the other hand, with fewer students than MRU, was granted more than three times as much — a total of $3-million — which breaks down to approximately $144 per full-time student. In comparison MRU received $30 per student — nearly 400 per cent less.
In a press release, SAMRU’s president Shifrah Gadamsetti, said they were perplexed at the funding discrepancies.
“The government should strive to be more equitable with funding student mental health care and, at the very least, be transparent about how it arrives at these vital funding decisions,” said Gadamsetti.
On top of the unbalanced funding decisions, Gadamsetti added the student association is especially concerned that mental health supports are being moved off campus.
“Students benefit from having services on campus for a multitude of reasons — our health and dental plans do not comprehensively cover mental health services in the community,” said Gadamsetti.
“Most service providers are private, which means they are quite expensive, and existing public services are overloaded and have extreme wait times that will only increase when asking students to access them.”
Gadamsetti also believes the university campus promotes a better environment for students seeking help. Professors can make referrals, counsellors better understand how to work with students and the process is much easier for students to navigate, especially students with mental health concerns.
“This added benefit would be lost if students were to transfer into the community as community service providers aren’t as aware of these issues, and wouldn’t be able to directly liaise with campus departments to give students the help they need within the classroom, or with professors.”
Mental health is a serious matter. In the 2016 National College Health Assessment, a survey conducted by 10 post-secondary institutions in Alberta, they found over 90 per cent of students reported feeling overwhelmed and more than 13 per cent said they have seriously considered suicide.
The province said they hope this funding will help improve the mental health supports offered to post-secondary students.
The minister of advanced education, Marlin Schmidt, said, “We have heard first-hand how important mental health programs are to students — which is why, for the first time, government is providing equitable funding to all public institutions,” said Schmidt.
“Creating healthy campuses and promoting positive mental health at Alberta’s post-secondary institutions better prepares students to deal with everyday stresses, sets students up for future success, and builds a more resilient community.”
The changes will not take place immediately. According to SAMRU, the first two years of funding are set to stay the same, with the last year going towards the off campus transition. In the meantime, SAMRU says they plan to continue advocating for on-campus mental health supports and equal funding.
To read more about the provincial government’s funding announcement, go to: www.alberta.ca.