Wednesday, 20 September 2017 09:24

Lethbridge is another community to receive extra funding to take care of students’ mental health

Written by  Demi Knight
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Students’ mental health is set to receive more support in post-secondary education environments throughout the next few years thanks to increased government funding.

The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College are two institutions within southern Alberta that will reap these benefits within the years to come. After receiving a combined $1.2 million every year for the next three years, Lethbridge post-secondary students will be able to explore more resources to help them through mental health related issues.
Minister of Advanced Education, Marlin Schmidt says these investments are needed as far too many students are suffering within today’s society and schooling systems.
“Mental health challenges have a significant impact on far too many students, and we are making these public investments so all students across the province have access to these programs when they need them.”
Over the set three-year period, the government will invest a total of $25.8 million into resources for post-secondary institutions around southern Alberta, including Lethbridge, Calgary and Medicine Hat. With the stress of personal life, classes and work, students can feel the combined pressure and not know which way to turn.
President and CEO of Lethbridge College, Paula Burns says that not only are these investments pivotal, but also essential to growing the already existing support that is offered, making them even more effective.
“We are thankful to the Government of Alberta for its commitment to prioritize the mental health of our students. This funding will allow us to create new mental health initiatives, as well as expand and enhance our existing programs. We will focus on providing customized supports for all students, including our Indigenous, LGBTQ+ and international groups.”
Although both the College and the University within Lethbridge house existing mental-health resources such as face to face, online and telephone counselling sessions, 24-hour support programs and mental health teams and nurses, President of the University of Lethbridge Mike Mahon says acknowledging these resources are important and furthering them is endlessly important to universities across not just the province, but the entire country.
“Like many universities across Canada, the University of Lethbridge has seen increased demand for student mental health supports. The investment made by the Alberta government is critical in ensuring that we are able to deliver effective student wellness programs and counselling supports to our students.”
The funding given to Lethbridge is particularly important as with the high volume of out-of-town students that Lethbridge sees each year, many students believe coming to a new and bigger environment can help stimulate mental-health related issues and therefor cause a higher demand for improved resources.
Nursing student at the University of Lethbridge and former resident of small town Oyen in Alberta, Kathleen Skjenna says moving to a bigger community can eliminate many common comforts from small-town residents.
“It’s more difficult because you don’t have access to the things you enjoy doing anymore like quading, hunting, spending time outdoors away from people. This could eliminate someone’s coping mechanisms, leading to a mental illness especially with the stress of school in the first year.”
Skjenna adds the change in size can also be a factor to rural residents perhaps needing the expanded options of these resources.
“There’s also a huge decrease in the sense of community in the city in general and people aren’t necessarily as friendly so you can feel like you don’t really belong there.” 
“The pressure to succeed while being in a new and different environment can lead students to be vulnerable to anxiety, depression and stress. We thank the province for giving Lethbridge College the resources to have a direct and positive effect on its students’ lives,” says President of the Lethbridge College Student’s Association, Arthur Torres, on students coming to a new environment and the toll that could take on their personal well-being.
This new funding plan was prompted by the National College Health Assessment survey that was conducted in 2016 across 10 post-secondary institutions. This survey showed high levels of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts among students, and showed the government the necessity of these mental health resources to institutions across Alberta to care for each and every student’s personal well-being.

Read 1170 times Last modified on Wednesday, 20 September 2017 09:29

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