VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Post-secondary students in B.C. now have access to a free mental health line the province released early to help them navigate through the extra stress of COVID-19.
Here2Talk is available for students 24/7 and connects them with licenced counsellors by phone, online chat, or the app for single, confidential sessions.
Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark says students in B.C. expressed a need for more mental health support, calling on the government to fill the gaps. After months of developing the service in conjunction with student feedback, she says it’s ready for the more than 555,000 post-secondary students across the province.
“No matter what, we need to break the stigma when it comes to mental health. We need to do our part to ensure that no one suffers in silence. Students, I want you to know you are not alone. I want you to dig deep, and have faith that you can and you will cross the finish line to reach your educational goals,” she says. “Because the fact is, we will need you more than ever to help us build the best B.C. as we recover because we will recover from this emergency health crisis.
Mark adds the service is available to rural, urban, Indigenous, domestic, international and post-secondary students in every corner of the province in public, private, full-time, part-time or in trades training.
The service is not limited to challenges faced only in post-secondary, and counsellors will be able to refer students to other resources in their communities.
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy says when the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 is added on top of the stress of school life, all the worry and anxiety is compounded.
“For too long, mental-health care was an afterthought in B.C., and many post-secondary students weren’t able to access the help they needed. Here2Talk is changing that,” she says. “Now every student can access supports 24/7 without stigma or judgment – and it’s free, because access to mental-health care shouldn’t depend on the size of your bank account.”
Darcy notes while physical distancing is temporary and necessary right now, it’s important to recognize immediate and long-term impacts on mental health.
The province is providing $1.5 million a year for the next three years for Here2Talk.
The 2016 National College Health Association survey found many post-secondary students in Canada face mental health challenges, with 44 per cent saying they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function” at some point in the previous 12-month period.
Of the surveyed students, 18 per cent had been diagnosed or treated professionally for anxiety. Thirteen per cent of students had seriously considered suicide and just over two per cent had attempted to suicide.
Students can call a counsellor toll-free at 1-877-857-3397 or direct 1-604-642-5212.