On January 30th, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union, alongside students across the country kicked off the Canadian Alliance of Students Associations’ (CASA) #StudentsLetsAct campaign, underlining the urgent need for action on student mental health. We are currently at a pivotal time for mental health and illness – a topic that has garnered significantly visibility as of recent and as a student collective it is our goal to channel this momentum into tangible action to help support our students and their well-being. Post-secondary students are at a stage in their life which is often paired with significant transitions, new responsibilities, and an increasing pressure to succeed, both academically and socially – making them particularly vulnerable to mental health issues.
Additionally, the age at which most people attend post-secondary coincides with a common age of onset for mental illness. Without the proper, accessible supports in place, not only are students’ academic performance at risk, but also the individual’s safety and wellbeing. When examining campus support services at postsecondary institutions, it becomes evident that there is an underlying trend of these services being overburdened and underfunded. UMSU and CASA believe that the federal government is in a position to play a significant role in assisting students struggling with mental health issues by providing increased funding targeted at mental health initiatives and supports on Canadian campuses. A prime example of this is showcased in the inability for those struggling with mental illness to access funding through Canada Student Grant for students with permanent disabilities given the episodic nature of many mental health issues – we urge government to expand the Canada Student Grant for students with permanent disabilities to also support those with temporary conditions such as a number of mental illnesses. Moreover, the federal government is well-placed to take the lead on collecting data on student mental health, which informs practices and policies all over the country.
These simple, yet high impact measures have the potential to greatly assist the hundreds of thousands of students across Canada who struggle with their mental health. Although we recognize that the re-structuring of our mental health systems cannot be solved by increased funding alone, we believe it is a critical first step of a multi-dimensional approach to secure more efficient and robust mental health supports for all students.
This is why UMSU, along with twenty other Canadian post-secondary institutions, are running this campaign– because government action on student mental health is critical and we need to have our students’ voices heard.
To participate in the #StudentsLetsAct campaign, you can drop by 1st Floor University Centre until February 1st at 2:00pm, participate on CASA’s website (https://www.casa-acae.com/studentsletsact) or contact UMSU VP Advocacy for more information.
The University of Manitoba Students’ Union is the official representative of the over 25,000 undergraduate students at the University of Manitoba.
Sarah Bonner-Proulx, UMSU Vice-President Advocacy
Established in 1995, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, national student organization composed of 23 student associations representing 280,000 post-secondary students from coast to coast.Through its partnership with the Quebec Student Union (QSU) and its 8 members representing 79,000 students, CASA presents a national student voice to the federal government. CASA advocates for a Canadian post-secondary education system that is accessible, affordable, innovative, and of the highest quality.
Lindsay Boyd, Communications and Public Relations Officer, CASA