Content warning: article may be triggering to some.
U of T will be installing safety barriers at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology after a student died in the building on Friday, the third death at the Bahen Centre in the past two years. Historically, U of T has been hesitant to acknowledge on-campus student deaths. Since the building re-opened on Sunday, the university has also established a memorial where community members can leave messages.
“We will continue to work on permanent changes,” said Sandy Welsh, Vice-Provost, Students to U of T News, in reference to the temporary safety barriers that were installed on Sunday.
In March, following the death of a student at the Bahen Centre, students pushed for action from the university’s administration, holding a silent protest outside of Simcoe Hall and disrupting a Governing Council meeting. Then-Vice-President, University Affairs of the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) Joshua Grondin said that he had specifically requested the installation of a safety net or barrier at the Bahen Centre in January.
The protests after the second death led to the formation of the Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health, which is currently in its consultation stage.
“This tragedy — especially after similarly tragic events earlier in this academic year — has triggered profound shock, sorrow, anger and frustration,” President Meric Gertler wrote to all students in his announcement of the Task Force in March.
Following the most recent incident, students organized an emergency meeting last Friday night at Sidney Smith Hall to discuss mental health on campus. There, they expressed frustration, anger, and disappointment about the mental health supports on campus.
The U of T Mental Health Policy Council, a newly-formed mental health student activism group, took to the Ontario Universities Fair on Sunday to hand out information pamphlets on mental health at U of T and to disrupt an information session.
Students and alumni from @UofT disrupted a Q&A session at #OUF2019 to tell prospective students why UofT's inadequate mental health services make it our last choice #OurLastChoiceUofT pic.twitter.com/vGoH7Paaz2
— UofT Mental Health Policy Council (@mhpcouncil) September 29, 2019
Both the UTSU and the Arts & Science Students’ Union have released statements expressing condolences for affected students, faculty, and staff. In their letter, the UTSU committed to further supporting student mental health: “This administration needs to change and listen. We, the UTSU, also need to improve, and we will continue to commit ourselves to pushing for change.”
We are saddened to report that a U of T student has died on the St. George campus tonight. Counsellors and Chaplains will be available to support students today from 10am – 4pm at the Health and Wellness Centre in the Koffler Student Services Centre, 1st Floor, Room 111. (1/4)
— University of Toronto (@UofT) September 28, 2019
If you or someone you know is in distress, you can call:
- Canada Suicide Prevention Service phone available 24/7 at 1-833-456-4566
- Good 2 Talk Student Helpline at 1-866-925-5454
- Ontario Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
- Gerstein Centre Crisis Line at 416-929-5200
- U of T Health & Wellness Centre at 416-978-8030.
Warning signs of suicide include:
- Talking about wanting to die
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. If you suspect someone you know may be contemplating suicide, you should talk to them, according to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.