The provincial government has selected Morneau Shepell to develop a free mental-health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students throughout British Columbia.
Morneau Shepell was chosen to create and operate a 24-hour-day, seven-day-a-week mental-health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students at all public and private post-secondary institutions in B.C. The company will provide on-demand, immediate counselling and referral support to almost a half-million students in B.C.'s public and private post-secondary institutions.
"Mental health is an issue our government takes seriously," Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training said Melanie Mark said.
”Post-secondary students have told me there is a gap in mental-heath support services. The stress students feel at university or college can be significant and can lead to serious isolation and potentially deadly outcomes.”
While the service is for post-secondary students, a forum in Kamloops in December heard students call for more mental-health supports in secondary schools.
Twenty-eight Kamloops high school students attended the fifth annual RCMP Youth Advisory Council event at the Henry Grube Education Centre. There, students expressed concerns, which included feeling there is a lack of proactive communication about supports for mental-health and drug-use issues in schools and ineffective counselling in those areas.
One student mentioned preferring to confide in teachers, with others expressing the feeling school counsellors only help get classes in order and are not equipped for mental-health assistance.
The new, free mental-health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students will launch this spring.
"Many students don't come forward and ask for the help they need because of the stigma that still surrounds mental-health issues," said Judy Darcy, the province’s minister of mental health and addictions. "This service will meet young people where they are at and provide them immediate access to someone to talk to, without shame or judgement."
Morneau Shepell administers the largest clinical network in Canada and has worked in the field since 1974. The company, which supports more than 3,800 clients across B.C. and more than 200 post-secondary institutions across North America, signed a three-year, $4.5-million contract with the B.C. government for the service.
"Going on to college and university can be an exciting transition that can also bring big changes and intense challenges for students,” said Jonny Morris, CEO of the B.C. office of the Canadian Mental Health Association. “Post-secondary students who need assistance might not always be comfortable reaching out, might not know where to turn, or services might not always be accessible. the new service stands to increase access to confidential student support provincewide, while linking to existing services on campuses and in community.”