In 2021, universities welcomed the Government’s commitment to introduce a new fund to expand student mental health services at Canadian post-secondary institutions. Two years later, cohorts of university students directly impacted by the pandemic are graduating without that additional support. 1 in 3 students reported that on campus services did not meet the diverse needs of students, and long wait times are the biggest barrier to students accessing care.
The pandemic forced Canadians and the government to rethink our healthcare system as it faced changing and growing demands. We must also rethink how we support mental health care for a generation of students affected by the pandemic. As students have returned to campuses across the country, universities are on the front lines of providing the vital mental health care services they need.
Universities are strengthening mental health and well-being services, focusing on stepped-care approaches that respond to individual student needs with targeted resources.
A critical investment for Canada
Canadians face human and economic costs as a result of mental illness. The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health estimates that the economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated to be $51 billion per year, including health care costs, lost productivity, and reductions in health-related quality of life. Investing in the mental health of young people is good social and economic policy for Canada.
Universities are working to offer supports to students, but require support from governments to meet the growing need for mental health care. Together, universities and the federal government can work together to introduce stepped care models that support strong student mental health and increase access to the care students need now.
By the numbers
75%mental health problems are diagnosed between 16-24
75% of mental health-related problems are first diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 24, a time when many attend post-secondary education.
50%access their university's mental health services
50% of students access their university's mental health services. Counselling, peer support groups and self-directed programs are the most utilized services.
74%stated the pandemic worsened their mental health challenges
74% of students stated the pandemic worsened their pre-existing mental health challenges.
61%stated the pandemic worsened their mental health challenges
61% of students stated the pandemic created new mental health struggles.
$51Beconomic burden of mental illness in Canada
The economic burden of mental illness in Canada is estimated to be $51 billion per year, including health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health-related quality of life.