Calling out the stigma of mental health

Campus initiatives aim to change youth attitudes on mental health

Calling out the stigma of mental health

Today, the mental health of Canada’s youth is a challenge for every post-secondary institution, including the University of Toronto. Whether it is because of the struggle for a satisfactory GPA, increased rivalry for employment, or the rollercoaster ride of being part of a socially networked society, close to one in five Canadian youth faces the reality of a mental disorder. Only one in six of the youth diagnosed get access to the mental health programming they need.

A key barrier to access to mental health programs for youth is the stigma attached to mental health issues. Society stereotypically considers mental health to be synonymous with mental illness. Yet mental health affects everybody, and there is a spectrum from mentally-well to mentally-ill. Seeking mental health programs is typically taboo for youth who do not want to be labeled “mentally ill” or “disordered”, but are looking to belong.

So, what can everybody do to defeat the taboo? Call bullshit on the stigma.

The truth is everybody, whether knowingly or not, has probably stigmatized a friend or family member.

The Let’s Call Bullsh*t Campaign is a student-run initiative organized by Partners for Mental Health to break the stigma of mental health by increasing society’s understanding of just what stigmatizing language is. Calling bullshit means that everybody needs to re-imagine their definition of  what mental health is, and the language they use to address it.

At the University of Toronto, Health and Wellness is introducing the Blue Space program to break the stigma of mental health. The vision behind Blue Space, like Positive Space for the LGBTQ community, is to create a safe space for anyone to speak about mental health without fear of judgment or isolation.

Dan Johnson, the Community Health Coordinator at Health and Wellness, says that “the shades of blue used to create the Blue Space logo represent the spectrum of emotions involved in mental health, and challenge the stereotype of blue being a symbol of feeling sad. The colour blue can be soothing or represent feeling happy. Conversations surrounding mental health should include the spectrum of emotions involved, and the U of T community needs to know it’s okay to talk whether you’re feeling happy or worried.”

Photos by Andriana Hnatykiw

Any student, faculty, or staff can get a Blue Space poster or postcard from Health and Wellness to display across the University of Toronto campus. “A Blue Space poster or postcard is a symbol of a safe space for mental health and a commitment to shattering the stigma of it,” says Johnson.

Like Blue Space, Peers Are Here is looking to break the stigma of mental health. Peers Are Here is a student-run mental health group at the University of Toronto. By creating a safe drop-in space for students to talk to each other and learn the tools they need to stay mentally well, Peers Are Here is looking to build a community approach to mental health at U of T.

In addition to Blue Space and Peers Are Here, the University of Toronto runs skills workshops out of CAPS to build resiliency to mental illness. The workshops look to teach students how to manage their thinking, regulate their emotions, change their behaviour, and balance their life.

This year, U of T saw significant student-run mental health programming, like laughter yoga, meditation, and skills workshops.

During a weekend this past March, secondary and post-secondary students across Canada journeyed to the MaRS Discovery District for the Unleash the Noise Student Mental Health Innovation Summit headed by the Jack Project.

The summit aimed to transition the state of mental health advocacy from talk to action by teaching youth how to act to shatter stigma.

At the summit, students looked at Canada’s mental health landscape and brainstormed what they could do to change it for the better and how they could better cooperate. Alexandra Misiak, a student from the U of T delegation, said, “The summit increased my understanding of the mental health landscape and how I can act to shatter the stigma of mental health… It inspired me to Unleash the Noise at U of T and beyond.”

Beyond the brainstorming sessions, the summit welcomed student speakers who introduced the mental health programs they run or who wrote letters addressed to “16-year-old-me,” displaying how storytelling is a tool for change.


Looking to the 2013–2014 school year, the Unleash the Noise team promised to develop a step-by-step strategy and action kit to be ready by the fall of 2013 to implement at U of T.

Fee diversion approved

UTSU largely silent as discontented students to bring case to UAB

Fee diversion approved

Capping a year of political turmoil, Trinity and Victoria University students voted overwhelmingly to sever financial ties with the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) last week.

Referenda for Engineering and St. Michael’s College students were still in progress as of The Varsity’s press time. The engineers’ referendum closes Wednesday at 8 pm, and St. Mikes’ referendum will run from Wednesday to Friday.

Trinity voted overwhelmingly for fee diversion, with 72 per cent of students in favour and 33 per cent voter turnout.

The Victoria referendum had a lower turnout, at 11.8 per cent, falling short of a 15 per cent target for the referendum to be binding set in the run-up to the vote. Still, 61 per cent of voters at Victoria cast ballots in favour of fee diversion.

The results are expected to go the University Affairs Board (UAB) of the Governing Council. UAB has ultimate authority in deciding whether fees will be diverted from the UTSU to the college councils.

 

Union’s muted response

The union has maintained its refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the referenda, and declined offers from the divisions to run the ‘no’ campaigns.

In its only public statement on ‘secession,’ outgoing vice-president, internal & services Corey Scott reiterated the union’s call for further discussions with dissatisfied members and questioned the referenda’s basis, suggesting that UTSU membership “does not run through the college to which you belong, or the faculty in which you’re enrolled.” Scott’s statement also expressed concern that “if individual students seceded, those students would become ‘free riders,’” subsidized by the remaining paying members.

Incoming UTSU president Munib Sajjad declined to answer a number of questions on the referenda, including what action, if any, he intended to pursue to keep Victoria and Trinity from leaving.

Sajjad declined to indicate whether he would ask the university administration to reject the referenda results, and whether the UTSU would send a representative to the UAB meeting to discuss the issue.

Trinity will be holding a meeting on Monday and Victoria on Friday to discuss the results of the referenda. Sajjad did not indicate whether he intended to attend either meeting, or to send a representative. Sajjad released a short statement, saying, “My team and I are looking to reach out to student representatives across our campuses. We want to truly open the lines of communication and promote all the great work that students are doing all across our great school.”

Behind the scenes, Sajjad and former UTSU president Danielle Sandhu engaged in an effort to win over levy-receiving groups such as sec and Bikechain and have them publicly oppose fee diversion. Instead, the levied groups released an open letter saying that while they were concerned that none of the units seeking defederation had approached them for meetings or contingency planning, the undersigned groups “respect the right of students to voice their political dissent.”

Uncertainty at Victoria

The Trinity referendum is automatically binding. The road forward for Victoria College is less clear, because 15 per cent turnout was required for its outcome to be considered binding.

A joint meeting of the incoming and outgoing VUSAC executive will meet Friday to decide whether the results will take force for next year.

Outgoing VUSAC president Shoaib Alli said that 7.2 per cent of eligible voters at Victoria voted to defederate. Consequently, regardless of how the additional 0.6 per cent students required to meet quorum voted, a majority would still have voted to leave the UTSU.

Alli stressed that this was only one of several factors VUSAC would consider. The 22 executives eligible to vote will meet Friday April 5 at 5.15 pm to make a final decision.

The VUSAC referendum was quieter than that of Trinity’s, with “effectively no Yes or No campaigns,” Alli said.

Dylan Moore briefly registered a Yes campaign at Victoria, but withdrew before the campaign period ended.

Moore, who was a candidate for vice-president, external, with last year’s Students First slate, posted an open letter on Facebook detailing his concerns with defederation. Moore generally agreed that the problems with the UTSU are endemic, but took issue with VUSAC’s ability to handle the fee reallocation. Moore urged Victoria students to “weigh the concerns expressed about the UTSU against whatever concerns one may have about VUSAC as an organization, and about the unintended consequences of fee diversion.”

Jubilation at Trinity

The 33 per cent voter turnout at Trinity surprised many, including co-head of college Sam Greene, who hopes it will help convince UAB to approve the results.

“As a matter of university policy the university has tended to respect the results of free and fair referenda initiated by students,” said Greene.

There were robust Yes and No campaigns at Trinity.

The Yes campaign, led by co-head-elect Ben Crase, had a sophisticated get-out-the-vote mechanism. Students could register with the Yes campaign to receive a text message reminding them to vote, as well a sign up for reminders via email and Facebook.

Crase said the Yes campaign had been “working tirelessly” to address concerns raised by
Trinity students.

The No campaign, led by fourth-year student Mark Harris, also utilized social media to reach
out to students.

Both campaigns had $500 to spend to convince students. Referendum cro Devyn Noonan received no complaints from either side throughout the process.

The only procedural issue brought to light concerned the online voting system. Some students had trouble casting their ballot, particularly when the EngSoc and Trinity referenda were simultaneously hosted on the same website.

“When the engineering referendum started there were a few crashes over the day,” said Noonan, who was confident that while delays may have frustrated some students, there were no problems with the elections themselves. Several Engineering students also complained about delays with the online voting system.

NEXT STEPS

St. Michael’s College is set to proceed with a referendum later this week, in spite of the belated release of a report examining the feasibility of defederation. The report, prepared by outgoing president Mike Cowan, was not officially endorsed by the smcsu.

There remain other lingering questions over the future of fee diversion.

Sajjad and the UTSU have repeatedly declined to indicate whether they would pursue legal action to stop colleges from separating. All of the parties involved have retained legal counsel, and allocated money for the probability of a courtroom battle.

All sides maintain that their legal position is strong.

The UAB has previously approved referenda with similar turnouts to those seen at Trinity and Victoria. Given the number of students now seeking a financial exit from the central student union, however, there are several contentious issues at play, and it is unclear to what extent any precedent might apply.

Even if UAB approves the fee diversion, significant work remains to be done over the summer as colleges prepare to administer health and dental insurance and offer a host of other services and responsibilities that are currently the domain of the UTSU.

Ontario announces tuition fees compromise

Tuition increases capped at three per cent as minister eyes intervention in flat fees controversy

Ontario announces tuition fees compromise

The Ontario government released a revised tuition framework last week, setting new guidelines on how much universities can raise annual tuition rates.

For the next four years, colleges and universities in Ontario may increase tuition by three per cent each year (one percent more than inflation), down from five percent under the previous framework.

The provincial government also hinted it would potentially act against controversial flat or ‘program’ fee structures, such as those implemented at the University of Toronto. Flat fees were a major controversy during president-designate Meric Gertler’s term as dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science.

“We reached what I think it a very positive outcome for students,” said mpp Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, “Moving away from the current tuition framework and reducing it significantly will save the average undergraduate at U of T and other places approximately $1,200 over the course of the framework.”

“This is not going to be easy for our universities and colleges,” admitted the minister. “It is a significant amount less revenue they’ll be taking in in the next four years from students, and I think it will be my job and their job to work to find ways to meet these costs and challenges without affecting the quality of education provided.”

The chair of the Council of Ontario Universities, Alastair Summerlee, sees the framework as a reasonable middle ground. “On the one hand, there was really strong pressure from various groups to freeze tuition, and on the other, a genuine need for universities to have money to be able to continue to provide the kind of quality of education that we think important, and a government working with a major deficit and not being able to fund universities even as much as they would like to, so a compromise all around.”

“It’s very important that we got a multi-year agreement,” added Summerlee, emphasizing the stability afforded by such a framework. “This will allow universities to start saying ‘Right, we don’t have as much money as we want. How do we plan to continue to provide the kind of education we need but without necessarily as many resources,’ so, fundamentally, it will actually provide a reassurance that we can do the best possible to provide quality education.

“I think it demonstrated that this government in particular is very good at listening to all the communities involved, that it came up with a compromise that is a reasonable one. I don’t think anybody will look too kindly at the outcome, but we’re all in a position that we can say we influenced the way the government thought.”

Minister Duguid cited discussion as a key emphasis for his administration in crafting the new framework: “We met extensively with student leaders, and all my post-secondary stakeholders at universities. I had discussions with leaders of post-secondary institutions and their representative organizations.”

The administrations of Ontario’s post-secondary institutions were indeed actively involved in the discussion leading up to the implementation of the new framework. “The government has  engaged very seriously with us,” said Summerlee, “and in the end, the presidents of Ontario’s colleges and universities collected together and wrote a document which we then all signed to support moving in the direction of the three per cent.”

“It just wasn’t a decision colleges and universities were hoping for,” said Duguid. “But, as I said early on, we’re seeing the system through the eyes of the students, and I believe we’ve reached a threshold of the days when we could give students five per cent increases on an annual basis, so we had to make some changes.”

Sarah King, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students—Ontario (CFS-O), disagreed. “We previously had many meetings with the ministry to express students’ position on the need not to increase tuition fees,” she said, “Unfortunately, as you can see, the Liberals did not listen to that call to reduce tuition fees and decided to continue to increase tuition fees, albeit at a lower rate.”

King went on to detail the recommendations for the new tuition framework submitted by the CFS-O to the provincial government in February: “Students were calling for a 30 per cent reduction in tuition fees over the next three years,” she said, with a 15 per cent reduction in the first year to be funded at “no new costs to the government” by re-allocating the Ontario Tuition Grant tax credit.

“This was not the approach that the Liberals have taken,” said King. “They’ve decided to continue to increase tuition fees at a rate of three to eight per cent, depending on program. By the end of this, this three- to four-year tuition framework will have seen, under the Liberals, since 2006, increases of up to 108 per cent.”

Even though they were at odds on the tuition framework, the CFS-O and Duguid both seem reasonably optimistic about their prospects for cooperation moving forward.

“What we are looking forward to is the fact that the government has expressed interest in moving forward in a lot of issues surrounding ancillary fees, tuition fee billing, and even flat fees, which is a really big issue at the University of Toronto specifically,” King noted.

“We’ve heard from students about what they regard to be unfairness with regard to the application of deferral fees and also the timing of tuition payments being aligned with osap deadlines,” said Duguid.

“At the same time, we’re going to enter into discussions this summer with our post-secondary leaders on changing the current rules with regard to flat charges. That’s something U of T students have an interest in, and we can plan to move on that by the 2015 school year.”

Per-student funding for post-secondary education in Ontario is the lowest of any province in Canada, while tuition for undergraduate and graduate students is the highest. Citizens of Ontario owe the provincial government $2.64 billion in student debt, up from $1.15 billion in 2005.

Music students approve steep fee increase

Funds sought by administration to help close major budget deficit

A referendum held by the Faculty of Music ended with 67 per cent of voting students in favour of a special levy that would see their student society fees increased steeply as part of a bid to close a gaping deficit in the faculty’s budget.

The fee, previously $15 a year, will gradually increase over the next three years: first to $315, then $615, and then $1,215. The changes are pending approval by the University Affairs Board of Governing Council.

Faculty of Music Undergraduate Association (FMUA) co-presidents Douglas Brenton and Jenna Richards said that the faculty’s severe structural deficit would soon begin to cause cutbacks to courses, reducing the availability of practice rooms and impacting class sizes.

The referendum, which took place March 11–15, had a voter turnout of 51 per cent. Brenton and Richards say that number, and the supermajority that voted in favour of the increase, “speaks a significant message” that “demonstrates the concern students have about the future sustainability of the Faculty of Music.”

First brought to the faculty’s executive council last November, the idea of holding a referendum to increase the levy was approved by the full council in December.

The referendum and its stakes were advertised to students over the holidays, with the administration sending emails to all students and regular updates on social media networks.

Three student forums were held in the new year to further engage students.

Faculty dean Don McLean was in attendance, and responded to student concerns alongside the fmua. He advocated the “long-term value and investment” represented by the fee increase.

“Anything that happens to this school in the future will affect the value of your degree. The better your degree, the more you are valued,” said McLean.

One major concern has been that students may not be able to afford such a steep increase in fees. McLean has urged students in this position to meet with him. Members of the faculty have also donated money to create bursaries for this specific purpose.

The fee, however, cannot entirely be covered under osap and students will be unable to opt out of paying it.

While acknowledging the significant degree by which fees are increasing, the faculty has said that it is a necessary measure: funds gathered by the expanded levy represent barely one-third of the structural deficit.

In addition to the levy increase, the faculty is making other cutbacks, relying on donations as well as continuing their concert series to raise additional funds.

The increased fees will be used to cover non-academic costs and extra-curricular activities, such as improved activity spaces for students, external performance opportunities, free concerts, and attendance to other events, class accompanists and career workshops.

The FMUA is currently in the process of drafting a contract, the terms of which would ensure that a separate account is created for the money from the levy, to be handled by Financial Services at the Faculty. Brenton and Richards see this as the best way to “secure a professional and trustworthy approach” to the increased funds.

Student society fees technically enable students to participate in fmua events and are monitored by a financial chair on the fmua council.

“We do not foresee any problems, because it is all about the trust bond that is being created between the FMUA and the Faculty of Music. The contract will hopefully eliminate any potential future problems,” said the two outgoing co-presidents  in a statement.

In spite of the protection and assurances to be offered by the contract, some students have expressed concerns about the use of the new funds. Meagan Turner, a second-year student in the Faculty, remains confused about the lack of attention on private lessons this year, compared to when the issue was first raised.

“I think solving the initial problem of private lessons is important, perhaps revamping MacMillan and Walter Halls. Since most donors see concerts, it would make sense to make that experience as pleasurable as possible,” said Turner.

“I think overall the referendum was run very well though, and it’s a shame that so much of the undergrad population didn’t vote,” she added.

While the increase was originally presented as an ancillary fee (and categorized as a ‘private lessons’ fee), this would not have left sufficient funds to address other important changes in the Music Faculty.

The Faculty maintains that if this levy is not implemented, there is a chance they would have to become a department within the University of Toronto, rather than a faculty, with funding and enrolment to be handled by the Faculty of Arts & Science.

They would also incur further cuts in courses, leaving only basic courses being taught, and a massive increase in class sizes.

The student levy proposal will be appearing before the University Affairs Board of the Governing Council on April 30. If approved, the first increase will be charged to students in the fall 2013 session.

UTSU: integrate Hart House, UTM, UTSC

Union cites lack of involvement from UTM, UTSC in decision to reject Hart House fee increase

UTSU: integrate Hart House, UTM, UTSC

A bid by Hart House for increased funding from a student levy was rejected by the Council on Student Services (COSS), a student-majority body that must approve all such fee increases. In a report explaining the rationale behind the rejection, the UTSU indicated that it was unsatisfied with the current level of involvement and integration students at the Scarborough and Mississauga campuses with Hart House.

UTM and UTSC students, like their counterparts on the St. George campus, must pay $2.32 to Hart House.

Munib Sajjad, UTSU president-elect and a member of the coss, said he believes that Hart House is a “great facility,” but added that he also thinks it is “underused and underrated,” especially by students at the sister campuses of utm and utsc. “There has been no strong effort … to promote its services,” said Sajjad.

“We need to work more on a tri-campus level,” said Sajjad. “I would hate to see opting-out occur,” he added, because it would encourage each campus to develop an identity independent of U of T.

Hart House has already undertaken efforts to increase participation with the Mississauga and Scarborough campuses. According to the COSS report, Hart House has initiated an ambassador program designed to enhance outreach at the three campuses, and has invested in developing social media tools to better engage the U of T community.

Several students studying in Mississauga and Scarborough have claimed they have nothing against paying the small fee if other students can benefit from their contribution.

“There’s a lot you pay for and you can’t take advantage of it all. As long as it’s being used by others, I don’t feel ripped off,” said Trevor Mehr, a second year student at utm.

There are students, like Mehr, who take advantage of facilities on more than one U of T campus. He believes that all students should have the same option.

Daikos, a law student and frequent user of Hart House, said he thinks that the fee should remain mandatory for all students because the exact percentage of funds allocated to particular services from individual campuses is not always clear. He believes it is likely that St. George students are also paying for some facilities on other campuses.

Hart House, a central student center on the St. George campus, obtains funds from mandatory incidental fees of all students enrolled at the University of Toronto. According to the coss report, the Hart House primary source of income depends primarily on purchased memberships and student fees. The university provides no funding to Hart House and students are the largest contributors, providing 54 per cent of costs.

Although there is a shuttle bus running between the Mississauga and St. George campuses, many UTM students claim that they are only familiar with Hart House as a bus stop, and are not aware of services that the student hub has to offer.

UTM students like Lauren and Michelle, who have been to Hart House a couple of times, agree that an opt-out option should be in place; they would much rather see the money go into scholarships or grants instead.

UTM student Sara Moyeen thinks that paying for Hart House is “pointless.”

“We aren’t going to spend 30–40 minutes to get there, people here use our own facilities,” said Moyeen.

Moyeen expressed her concern that part-time students do not have enough support, and would rather see funds routed to the part-time population instead. She also stated that the Mississauga campus should have its own equivalent to a hub like Hart House center, since downtown Toronto is such a great distance away for many students.

Unlike UTM, the Scarborough campus does not provide a shuttle bus to take students downtown, making it more difficult for those enrolled at UTSC to access Hart House facilities.

Sarah, a fourth year at UTSC, was not aware that she was being charged for Hart House’s services. “We already pay so many fees,” she said. “It’s upsetting. I don’t want to pay for something I’m not going to use.”

Sarah said she would rather have UTSU pay attention to its own facilities, which she believes need improvement, such as the bathrooms, hallways, and campus aesthetics.

Although several students have stated that they would prefer an opt-out option, Sajjad added that he hopes students will find the time to get involved and experience what Hart House has to offer because “[Student life is] fundamental to education; we’re not just student numbers.”

Trinity provost departs for prestigious Oxford post

Trinity provost Andy Orchard will end his term as the college’s top-ranking administrator early to accept a prestigious post at Oxford University beginning in the fall.

Orchard, who was initially appointed provost in September 2007 and was re-appointed to a second term in 2012, announced his decision to accept the Rawlinson and Bosworth Professorship in Anglo-Saxon based out of Pembroke College in Oxford.

The professorship was established in 1795 and has previously been held by scholars such as J.R.R. Tolkein. It is, Orchard says, the only job for which he would leave Trinity.

“I was very, very pleased and proud to be appointed to a second term. It’s a slightly deflating thing to have served one year of my second term and then be lured elsewhere,” said Orchard. “Some of the plans that I had will evolve.”

Those plans include a handful of ambitious projects that Orchard hopes his successor will take up, including the expansion of Trinity’s archives and the construction of a new residential wing of St. Hilda’s, one of the college’s residency buildings.

Orchard has presided over a sea change in the ranks of the college’s senior administration, replacing eight of 11 positions “of the major people who do all the work — as opposed to the provost, who sits around and talks to undergraduates.”

“I leave the place in safe hands,” said Orchard in a departing interview with The Varsity.

He arrived at the University of Toronto 12 years ago from Cambridge, lured by the largest graduate program in medieval studies, with its reputation for academic rigor and the compulsory study of Latin. He was also attracted by the “amazing” Dictionary of Old English, which has extensive access to rare manuscripts.

And though he came for academe, he stayed for the college he now leads. Years ago, hitching a drive home from his fellow Latinist and former dean of arts Chris McDonough, the two passed Trinity’s impressive frontal façade.

“What college is that?” asked Orchard at the time. Trinity, said McDonough. “Would you like to become a fellow?” he asked.

“Twelve years later, and here we are,” said Orchard, gesturing around a spacious office adjacent to his home in the college, where he has lived during his time as provost with his wife, Clare Orchard, and their two children.

Orchard has greatly endeared himself to students, delivering provostial addresses partially in Latin while poking fun at the college’s rivals, and speaking regularly at the college’s satirical debate society, the Lit. He also hosted popular “Beer and Beowulf” evenings, where students solved Anglo-Saxon riddles together and waded through difficult pronunciations of Old English poetry.

As provost, he has continued to teach a small number of graduate and undergraduate students, the latter primarily through his popular 199y class entitled “Raiders, Traders, and Invaders.”

“I’m trying to convince everyone that Vikings are actually shy, sensitive antique dealers tragically misunderstood,” he says, only half-jokingly, glancing towards a fearsome-looking horned helmet on a nearby bookshelf.

“That’s a class that I’ll certainly miss. There’s not the opportunity for that kind of a class in the more traditional atmosphere at Cambridge,” he reflects.

There will be an interim provost appointed during the search for Orchard’s successor.

In the meantime, the college prepares to bid a fond farewell to its leader. It is scouting artists, and in Strachan Hall, the canvases of Orchard’s 13 forbearers have been inched closer together, leaving just enough room for the portrait to come.

Mental health issues garner increased attention

New campaign, $27 million provincial commitment marks renewed focus on mental health on campus

Mental health issues garner increased attention

A new UTSU-led campaign raising awareness about students’ mental health took shape at a town hall meeting late last week.

The UTSU campaign will focus on the eradication of discrimination towards students with mental health concerns by first collaborating with groups on campus to undertake an accessibility audit.

Also last week, the Ontario government announced $27 million in spending over three years to tackle mental health concerns on campuses. The first installment will launch 10 new programs, including a 24-hour helpline for students.

The twin efforts from the UTSU and Queen’s Park, which are not formally connected, represent a renewed focus on what appears to be the worsening condition of mental health on Ontario campuses.

According to the spring 2012 National College Health Assessment, which surveyed around 76,000 students across North America including 5,000 U of T students, 86.8 per cent felt overwhelmed by all they had to do, 51.3 per cent felt overwhelming anxiety, and 31.6 per cent felt so depressed that they found it difficult to function at any time within the last 12 months.

According to Health and Wellness executive director Janine Robb, a significant proportion of students deal with adjustment or psycho-social issues: 27 per cent experience anxiety disorders, 24 per cent mood disorders, 18 per cent adjustment disorders, and 18 per cent psychosocial difficulties.

Corey Scott, the outgoing UTSU vice-president, internal & services, said that there was lack of attention given to the correlation between tuition fees and mental health.  Many issues of mental health, Scott said, became more prevalent as tuition fees increased.

Noor Baig, outgoing vice-president, equity, said that flat fees create the expectation that students can handle six courses — a norm, Baig says, that is unattainable.

“Taking six courses, with readings and assignments, is not conducive to a healthy lifestyle unless a student is in excellent physical, mental, and economic health. This is the case for so few students, so why is this the standard students should be living up to?” said Baig.

In addition, the UTSU campaign aims to address concerns with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

CAPS is a campus service that offers students short-term individual counselling, psychotherapy, workshops, and psychiatric medication services.

In collaboration with Accessibility Services, CAPS anchors initiatives such as the first-year students’ “Move U of T,” which supports active healthy living to sustain them in the transition into university life, and “Exam Jam” which offers students workshops on how to include mind-body movement and meditation to overcome their stress. In addition, CAPS provides individual activities such as peer mentoring, professional counselling, Monday meditations and yoga.

“There are a great variety of strategies, workshops, seminars, programs, and individual counselling, at all three campuses that address wellness and mental health on an ongoing basis. The university endeavours to build a holistic approach to education and preparation and stress prevention into the lives of students,” said vice-provost, students, Jill Matus in an email to The Varsity.

One of the main issues related to CAPS is that its services are capped at 20 sessions for U of T students. Yolen Bollo-Kamara, vice-president, campus life, said that when students with mental health issues reach 20 sessions, the transition to receive further counselling is difficult.

“If you have a mental health issue and need to see a counsellor regularly, after the first half of studies your sessions may run out. This campaign should rally for more sessions,” added Mahsima Tavoosi-Monfared, a fourth-year student specializing in sociology and psychology.

In an email to The Varsity, Robb said that in CAPS, 95 per cent of students have 12 or fewer visits and 0.01 per cent reach the 20 session limit.

“Our goal is not to provide long-term ongoing psychotherapy,” said Robb. She said for students who require long-term psychotherapeutic services, their needs “exceed our mandate and they are better served within the community health network.”

Another issue with CAPS brought forth in the campaign is how anti-depressants make up the majority of medications prescribed on campus. Robb said that although the majority of medications prescribed are anti-depressants, only 19–25 per cent of students are prescribed medication. Last year, she says, only 19 per cent of students were on medications.

UTSU president Shaun Shepherd said that the university is stressful by way of design and that prescribing anti-depressants was a Band-Aid solution.

“CAPS services are not getting down to the nitty gritty of why anti-depressants are the top drug used and why U of T is a place of stress and mental health concerns. We need to think more broadly,” Shepherd said.

Along with the UTSU’s campaign, the new commitment by Queen’s Park has also been praised by university administrators. Matus calls the investment “an excellent initiative,” and added, “the University of Toronto is working with the Council of Ontario Universities to provide guidance and expertise on the pilot project.” The pilot is set to launch this summer.

David Cameron announced as interim dean for Faculty of Arts & Science

Professor David Cameron has been appointed interim dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science at the University of Toronto, effective May 21, 2013.

He fills the position vacated by Meric Gertler, who was named the next President of the University on March 4, 2013, succeeding David Naylor.

Cameron’s CV is extensive, encompassing positions in academia that include dean of Arts & Science at Trent University, chair of Trent’s Department of Political Science, vice-president, institutional relations at U of T, acting chair of the Department of Political Science, acting vice-dean, undergraduate education and teaching of A&S, and chair of the Department of Political Science, the position he currently holds as he waits to assume responsibility as interim dean.

Professor Cameron has also served in a variety of administrative and advisory roles for the government of Ontario.