Victoria/Fraser Valley – The Province has selected Morneau Shepell to develop a free mental health counselling and referral service for post-secondary students throughout British Columbia.
This mental health service will mean for the first time in B.C., every student – whether rural, urban, domestic, international, public, private, full-time or part-time – will have access to 24/7 services to supplement services on campus and in the community. As this provincewide program is a new service, the ministry will take the time to engage with students and post-secondary institutions on the design of the service before launch in spring 2020.
After a rigorous procurement process, Morneau Shepell was chosen to create and operate a 24/7 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 half a million students in B.C.’s public and private post-secondary institutions.
“Many students struggle to access mental health supports; there are long wait times for on-campus counsellors, and in many communities there are very limited options for off-campus support,” said Tanysha Klassen, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “Students were excited when the government initially announced this initiative, and the selection of the provider brings it one step closer to implementation.”
The service will provide students with access to supports that supplement campus and community services, ensuring help is available when students need it. Post-secondary students in all regions of the province will be able to access this service at any time, removing barriers associated with geography and work and school schedules. The service was developed in consultation with students, and the ongoing consultations with students will help to ensure the implementation best addresses students’ needs.
“The typical nine to five office hours don’t always work for students,” said Klassen. “When you’re dealing with stressors associated with academics, work, and life, missing class to talk to someone can compound the issue rather than help solve it.”
Two decades of underfunding in the post-secondary education sector has caused tuition fees to dramatically rise, which has resulted in students working longer hours, multiple low-paid jobs, and taking on financial insecurity to complete their studies. Additionally, underfunding has strained institutional budgets, and on-campus supports like counselling have not been able to keep up with the demands of growing student populations.