Canadian university & college students crying out for mental health support

By: Feb 24, 2014
Canadian university & college students crying out for mental health support

A 2013 survey of Canadian students revealed nearly 60% felt overwhelming anxiety and 10% seriously considered suicide.

Recently a young Canadian college student attempted to broadcast his suicide via live video feed directly from his dorm room. Although the student was unsuccessful in an attempt to take his own life, the story highlights a tragic trend playing out in college campuses all over the country.

Students are feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of college, and often do not have healthy coping mechanisms to effectively deal with the stress. The result has been a series of grievous events such as the one discussed above. Thankfully the student lived, but there have been several who have not.

A 2013 survey of Canadian students revealed that 9 out of 10 college students felt overwhelmed with their responsibilities. More alarming, nearly 60% revealed they felt overwhelming anxiety with 10% seriously considering suicide.

These alarming statistics reveal the pressure these students feel to succeed in an increasingly competitive environment. And without mental health services on campus, students are turning to unhealthy ways to cope.

While the survey certainly reveals things are getting worse, the study did not discuss the genesis of the declining mental health in college students. Experts say part of the problem is two-fold: college campuses – especially elite schools, are highly competitive, and students are showing up on campuses as freshman with pre-existing mental health conditions.

This begs the question – where do we go from here?

Experts say education about mental health issues among college students is key to reducing the stigma. By talking openly about mental health related issues, those suffering will understand their plight, and that they are not alone. The result is a higher rate of seeking help and discovering ways of getting better.

Social media has become an effective tool in opening up dialogue about mental health issues as they relate to college students. College students are under more pressure than they’ve ever been. With a sagging economy, skyrocketing tuition, and piles of student loan debt, students often feel there is no room for error, and that they have to perform at an unreasonably high level.

In addition to attempted suicide, students are harming themselves through other means including cutting, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and prescription drug abuse.

Most colleges and universities have licensed counseling staff or are able to make referrals to professionals in the community. The major problem is getting students to come forward and self-disclose instead of suffering in silence. Close friends are often the first to see signs of depression but do not often know exactly what those signs are or how to properly react. Experts say signs of depression include:

  • Constant fatigue and decreased energy
  • Unshakable feelings of sadness 
  • Irritability over small matters
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and life’s pleasures
  • Feeling hopeless

As the study suggests, college students experiencing these symptoms are far from alone. As dialogue increases, the stigma about these prevailing problems will decrease, and students will get the help they need.