The B.C. government has announced plans to develop a 24/7 virtual resource for post-secondary students dealing with mental health and addiction challenges.
The program will include phone, online chat, text and email support for young adults available around the clock, including confidential virtual counselling sessions.
The province will be posting a procurement notice to B.C. Bid in mid-January to seek proposals from parties interested in working with the B.C. government to develop the support tool.
“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” said Minister Melanie Mark.
“Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus. That’s why our government is working to develop a mental-health service that is available to students around the clock, provincewide.”
A total of $1.5 million has already been approved for the first year of the 24/7 support resource, with further hopes of expanding the program to reach teens.
The 2016 National College Health Association Survey surveyed Canadian post-secondary students about their mental health experiences in the past 12 months. According to the survey’s results:
• 44.4 per cent said that they had at some point felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”
• 13 per cent had seriously considered suicide
• 2.1 per cent had attempted suicide
• 18.4 per cent had been “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety
“Expanded mental health services are in demand for post-secondary students in B.C.,” said Aran Armutlu, chairperson of the British Columbia Federation of Students.
“Having more options for counselling and other services available, and having 24/7 access to these services, is a welcome addition to the changes this government is making for students.”
The service will be available to B.C.’s approximately 275,000 students at 25 public post-secondary schools and 51,000 students at private training institutions. There are about 1.3 million children, youth and young adults living in B.C.
The project will be a collaboration between the Ministry of Advanced Education, Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Children and Family Development.