$26M set for men­tal health

Provin­cial funds to address cri­sis at uni­ver­si­ties

StarMetro Edmonton - - Your Essential Daily News - Kevin Maimann

New men­tal-health fund­ing could help Al­berta uni­ver­si­ties cut coun­selling wait times for stu­dents at risk of sui­cide, ad­vo­cates say.

An­nounc­ing the provin­cial gov­ern­ment’s $25.8-mil­lion in­vest­ment Mon­day, Ad­vanced Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Mar­lin Sch­midt cited last year’s Na­tional Col­lege Health As­sess­ment sur­vey of Al­berta cam­puses that found 13 per cent had se­ri­ously con­tem­plated sui­cide in the past year and one in 50 at­tempted sui­cide.

“We can­not and will not let this heart­break­ing state of af­fairs to con­tinue,” Sch­midt said.

The funds will roll out over three years, with $2.6 mil­lion go­ing to Ed­mon­ton in­sti­tu­tions an­nu­ally.

MacEwan Univer­sity’s Stu­dent As­so­ci­a­tion pres­i­dent Stephanie Ne­doshytko said MacEwan’s $120,000 an­nual share will al­low them to in­crease the number of men­tal-health sup­port work­ers on cam­pus.

“Our wait times, just re­cently, have been around three weeks for stu­dents to ac­cess psy­chol­o­gists, coun­sel­lors or so­cial work­ers on cam­pus,” she said.

Ma­rina Banis­ter, pres­i­dent of the Univer­sity of Al­berta Stu­dents’ Union, said that while stu­dents are ex­cited for the fund­ing, they have con­cerns over the for­mula, which doesn’t dole out funds based on pop­u­la­tion.

The U of A will get the big­gest slice of the fund­ing, with $1 mil­lion over three years — but it’s one of the low­est per stu­dent based on full-load equiv­a­lent en­rol­ment num­bers.

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