By Jonah Brunet
The Ontario government announced Tuesday it will be devoting $27 million to a fund that will create new support systems for post-secondary students across the province struggling with mental illness and addictions.
Brad Duguid, minister of training, colleges and universities, officially began phase one of the threephase Mental Health Innovation Fund. The first $12.3 million will fund a provincial phone line for mental health counselling.
“Our investment means that post-secondary students will have access to a province-wide helpline to provide support for college and university students 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, no matter where they are,” said Duguid.
The phone line could complement university and college campus counselling centres like Ryerson’s Centre for Student Development and Counselling – staffed by about 15 counsellors – that struggle to serve a growing demand for mental health and academic assistance.
The fund, representing a partnership with Kids Help Phone, ConnexOntario, Ontario 211 and the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), will help to train campus counsellors, and create a Centre for Innovation on Campus Mental Health.
Duguid said the fund will also help remote Northern-Ontario colleges, many of which lack the extensive support available at larger schools.
“Having access to support when they need it the most can be the difference between completing an assignment or not, completing a term or not, and potentially even completing a degree or not,” said OUSA President Alysha Li.
A launch date for the phone line has not been set.