The University of Waterloo will increase the number of mental health professionals on campus available to help students with mental health.

The announcement comes after the release of a comprehensive report of 36 recommendations on student mental health released Monday, March 12 by the President’s Advisory Committee on Student Mental Health.

Key themes within the report include:

  1. Having more social support on campus by fostering positive interpersonal relationships between peers, staff and faculty;
  2. Increasing the awareness about mental health and mental illness including efforts to educate students about services;
  3. Identifying early intervention and skills building by introducing early intervention strategies through educational workshops and/or digital applications; 
  4. Strengthening service levels and duty of care so that on-campus services are prepared for a spectrum of mental health concerns represented by the student population;
  5. Working to improve access to mental health services by offering one mental health/counselling staff member for each 1,000 students;
  6. And creating a mechanism of accountability for implementation of the report’s 36 recommendations by considering the adoption of the Okanagan Charter, inviting a collaborative research program to develop knowledge about the topics addressed, and joining provincial advocacy efforts.

The University will invest $1.2 million to increase mental health professionals in counselling services on campus to 37, including counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists. It will bring the total number of professionals who support students with mental health issues—such as physicians and nurses—to more than 70.

The University is funding the new supports in partnership with the Federation of Students and Graduate Students Association.

“With the addition of these extra resources, we will be able to quickly increase the number of staff available for counselling on campus to meet a key recommendation of the report, which is having one counsellor for every 1,000 students,” said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president and vice-chancellor at Waterloo. “The remaining recommendations in the final report will allow us to continue to reduce underlying causes of stress on campus and to ensure students who are struggling can access the help they need.”

In addition to adding more staff for counselling, the new funding supports increased mental health training for faculty and staff to aid them in identifying and assisting students in distress as well as an increase in education efforts to ensure campus is aware of what services are available and how to access them.

Hamdullahpur also announced that he will immediately establish an implementation team to address the remainder of the recommendations.

The team will be chaired by Professor John Hirdes from Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems in the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences who specializes in mental health research. The remaining recommendations span a number of key areas, including service access and delivery, early intervention, awareness building and academic policies.

Hirdes is tasked to prioritize the impact of the recommendations and present an implementation plan as soon as feasible.

Read the news release.