By: Kamila Matyslakiewics
McMaster University boasts commitment to mental health and well-being and claims to prioritize these services for students.
But what is really happening on the front lines? What is the actual student experience of trying to access counselling services at McMaster?
Mental health services for students are inadequate at McMaster University.
When trying to get access to services on campus, students can expect to experience wait times of a couple of weeks or more between appointments. This is unacceptable and needs to be addressed.
For the students who have the courage to come forward and seek counselling, they are prone to the possibility of being told that resources are stretched thin and that their needs can be left unaccommodated.
There are several reasons as to why this could be the case.
A simple solution to the lack of resources and the ridiculous wait times that students experience could be as simple as hiring more counsellors to meet the need of students or introducing new specialized services to give students more direction in choosing where to invest their wait time.
Generally, when seeking an appointment, students can expect to receive a consultation appointment the same day and they are assigned a counsellor.
This is the way things should run, but this is often not the case.
When trying to get access to services on campus, students can expect to experience wait times of a couple of weeks or more between appointments.
The real issue comes when student requests to book regular, weekly appointments with a counsellor. The wait times between appointments are usually a few weeks.
In the life of a struggling student, there are so many things that can happen in the span of a few weeks and the consequences of this wait time could be a detrimental to one’s health.
In order to address their concerns, the students that are coming forward and seeking help need consistent, weekly sessions to have the chance to be heard so that they can begin understanding their concerns and developing strategies and solutions for to address their concerns.
In my personal experience, I sought counselling through the McMaster University Wellness Centrr. After my first appointment, I had a wait time of three weeks for the next appointment.
The day before the second appointment, I phoned the Wellness Centre to confirm the time of the appointment. Later that same day, I received a voicemail stating that the appointment had been cancelled because the counselor was going to be away.
To think that if it had been me that cancelled the appointment in short notice, I would have been hit with a $50 fine is an upsetting reality in addition to the lack of follow up about scheduling another appointment. Given that my total time between appointments added up to five weeks, this experience was more than frustrating.
I’m not the only student who has felt like they were slipping through the cracks of the system after having the courage to reach out and seek help. This is unacceptable at such a large, renowned educational institution like McMaster University that students and parents depend on for well-being.
Each year during the MSU presidential elections, most campaigns have some mental health platform promising to improve services and hire more counselors.
And yet, action generally ends at hash tags, buzzwords and expressing sentiments about the importance of mental health awareness.
These are important first steps and are necessary to help end the stigma surrounding mental health, but they’re not enough to directly meet the needs of students.