Mental health.

It’s a convenient buzzword for political candidates trying to strum up more votes or for an addition to a budget to seem more progressive. It’s an often discussed topic on this campus and yet the services provided at Western seem to fail to meet the needs of the student body.

Which is not at all to say that those currently working on mental healthcare on campus are to blame for this — I would argue that these are the people who are fighting this challenge the hardest and deserve our support the most. The problem is often that they are chronically underfunded and understaffed, as well as being disconnected from each other.

If a student goes to Student Health Services (SHS), tells their story, and is then recommended to go to Student Development Centre (SDC), they must then retell everything. This is one of the problems with mental healthcare at Western, though one I have been told is being worked on.

A question I would like to ask is why mental health only seems to be discussed after something horrible has happened? The discussion around mental healthcare at Waterloo University has now come into the limelight, but only after the unthinkable has occurred. Why is this?

The problem then extends to a lot of resources. If a student is not in immediate crisis, the wait times for resources are often weeks, sometimes months. That is simply too long. This, once again, is not the fault of those providing the resources but rather the system that keep them chronically underfunded & understaffed.

This is a major problem at many universities – Western very much included.

We are often told that recovery begins when a student works up the courage to seek help and reaches out — but what happens when those resources do not reach back out? Often, the student is left on their own to get worse while they wait to finally get access to resources.

This is not a small issue either – that exact story has been shared by first year students, sophs, upper year students, club members, sports players and many more. This tale of waiting for resources can sometimes even end up with the unthinkable happening — as has happened countless times before.

We must go beyond simply spreading awareness about mental health — a task the importance of which I do not at all mean to undermine as it is an absolutely essential one — and begin to seek systematic reform and renewed focus on mental healthcare on Western’s campus.

Too many students have and will suffer in silence unless this issue is addressed. I acknowledge that this is hard. But it is necessary. It will literally save lives in the process.

— Alek Lumia-Garbin, English language and literature I