By Madi Wong
Students at Ryerson University think mental health services on campus need to be altered in order to improve accessibility and increase awareness about services.
Arielle Aplin-Siegel, a third-year environment and urban sustainability student, said the process of booking a counselling appointment is difficult.
“When you walk in to make an appointment, you can’t make an immediate appointment to speak to someone in person. You can only do that over the phone, and it isn’t even guaranteed that you will get an appointment that day,” she said. “It was not easy to use in my experience, if anything, the stress of it made me feel worse,” said Aplin-Siegel.
Likewise, Hannah Joosse, a second-year image arts student, said it looks like many students are trying to access counselling services but it seems impossible to get into.
“I certainly am in the dark about the extent of what is available”
According to Joosse, after reaching out to counselling services, it took her three weeks to meet with someone who could evaluate and place her on the waiting list to see a counsellor.
She was told she probably would not be able to receive one-on-one counselling for another semester or two.
“I wasn’t in crisis, but it was disheartening to hear that it would take that long to get the help I needed,” she said.
Following the news of a student dying by suicide at U of T, their administration is facing backlash for its lack of resources and accommodations for students struggling with poor mental health.
President Mohamed Lachemi said Ryerson strives to do their best in fostering an environment that is supportive of mental well-being.
“In the last several years, we have made a financial commitment to expand mental health services including adding more full-time counsellors and launching a new care pilot project [such as] care groups, online tools and one-on-one counselling,” said Lachemi.
He also highlighted the Student Health Assistance and Resilience Program (SHARP) as a student resource.
SHARP is a program designed to help students manage their well-being and help them create a plan on “healthy lifestyle changes,” one “that is fun and achievable.”
“We continue to do whatever it takes to minimize the pressure on our students,” said Lachemi.
Brandon Smith, the manager of Ryerson’s residence and living, said they’ve created a new position that focuses on mental health and well-being through one-on-one connections.
“[The news from U of T] is something we would discuss in our weekly staff meeting to ensure RAs are aware of what’s happened…to communicate in their weekly community meetings,” said Smith in an email.
Joosse said she is “vaguely aware” of any resources and has never understood exactly what they do.
Set to go on exchange next year, Joosse said she was hoping Ryerson could help her access support abroad ahead of time.
“If anything, the stress of it made me feel worse”
“Based on the way their own mental health services are run, I’m not holding my breath…my experience with them has been less than great as I still haven’t been able to see a counsellor,” she said.
Though Ryerson offers counselling services and other mental health initiatives for students, Aplin-Siegel said she does not think students are aware of them.
“I certainly am in the dark about the extent of what is available and wish it was advertised more, or more effectively at least,” she said.
In 2016, The Eyeopener reported that students could face up to a three-month waiting time to see a counsellor on campus.
Ryerson’s counselling services did not respond in time for publication to a request for comment regarding wait times and resources.