Online Tool Aids Students

Mental health: There are indications struggles are on the rise for students

By Kate Dubinski The London Free Press
Last Updated: September 13, 2010 7:11pm

Sometimes, it means being down about getting a bad mark, missing home or not fitting in.

Other times, it means feeling hopeless, depressed and suicidal.

College and university students are believed to be dealing with more mental health issues than previous generations, and London’s Fanshawe College had become the first campus in Canada to use an innovative online tool to help them cope.

“I think it’s a trend in our society that people are feeling more mental health pressure. College age is when a lot of these issues start emerging,” said
Lois Wey, Fanshawe’s manager of counselling and accessibility services.

“It’s not unusual for people to have their first episode with mental illness while they’re at college.”

Fanshawe has teamed up with London-based mindyourmind. a non-profit youth mental health website run through Family Services Thames Valley to create the iCopeU website.

Its resources are built for young adults and include games, MP3 relaxation talks and information about everything from anxiety, to eating disorders, sexual assault and schizophrenia.

“We really wanted students to have fingertip information for stress management, safety planning and resources on campus and in the community,” said Wey.

“We have a lot of great on-campus resources, but where can they turn to for assistance during off-hours? They need to know that.”

A recent study by the American College Health Association, which included data from six Ontario universities, tracked students going to campus counsellors for help. It found 51% to 60% of students reported feeling hopeless. Between 33% and 43% reported feeling so depressed, they were unable to function and 6% to 9% had considered suicide in the year before the survey.

The University of Western Ontario’s student council has also launched a website to give its students an online resource for mental health issues.

The website,, includes contact information for on- and off-campus counselling and listings for events to be held throughout the year to reduce the stigma of mental health issues.

Across the continent, campus counsellors have noticed more people coming to get help but also more students getting help for more severe problems, the college association’s study found.

“There is an increasing amount of mental health issues in that age group, and the pressures on them are mounting,” said Christine Garinger, an education co-ordinator at mindyourmind.

“There is a lot of stigma still surrounding mental illness. Feeling shame is huge for this age group. There is a very strong shame factor if they’re not
feeling themselves, (and instead) feeling depressed, sad or feeling pressure.

“Sometimes students don’t know how to take a step back, so we need to increase awareness.”

Because most college students use the Internet to get information, Fanshawe and mindyourmind teamed up to put the resources where the students are most likely to look.

“We want to customize this for each campus, for each community,” Garinger said.

Fanshawe is the first campus in Canada to bring the website to its students, but Garinger hopes others follow suit.

“The website can be customized with colours and logos and information, so students don’t feel like they’re leaving the school’s website,” she said.

It’s important to know the information they’re getting is reliable and helpful, Wey said.

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