U of T creates online COVID-19 discussion forum

Support system in limited use as CAMH social workers monitor, offer advice to students

U of T launched an online forum at the end of March to provide students with another support system during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the university’s latest initiative in its newfound partnership with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), which was announced earlier this year as part of the university’s Presidential & Provostial Task Force on Student Mental Health’s report. The partnership aims to create cohesive mental health infrastructure across all three campuses, increase funding for mental health, and create a “stepped model of care.”

To use the forum, students must provide their U of T email to create an account with an anonymous username. Alternatively, they can view posts without creating an account.

The forum is monitored by CAMH social workers, who can offer advice and direct students to other resources on a case-by-case basis from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm on weekdays and 9:00 am to 4:00 pm on weekends. The social workers also act as a source of accurate information on the pandemic. 

In addition to the forum, the site also features a list of additional mental health resources. 

Even though the forum has been available since late March, only five posts have been made as of the time of publication.

Rosa Dragonetti, a CAMH project manager and an assistant professor in U of T’s Department of Family & Community Medicine, spoke with U of T News about the forum. She explained that during hard times, “we often think: why is this happening to me? Am I alone in this battle?” She also expressed that having a community where students can relate to each other’s anxieties can be extremely effective in relieving stress.

In response to the forum’s low participation, a U of T spokesperson wrote in an email to The Varsity that “at least one student association has told [them] they also will share the information on their social media platforms” and that they “will encourage more to do the same.” The spokesperson added that U of T plans to increase its promotional efforts during the summer and fall.

Mental health during COVID-19

U of T’s Health & Wellness Centre has moved its services online, and will be conducting video teleconferences and phone meetings for ongoing care, and online mental health assessments.

An official can discuss options with students in the event that in-person care is required. However, the Health & Wellness Centre can no longer provide emergency care, and requests that students go to their local hospital instead. 

While these services are provided for students in Ontario, students outside of the province are directed to look for health services in their own area. In the event that they cannot find adequate care, they can contact the university to discuss their options.

Additionally, all students have access to 24-hour counselling in multiple languages through the My SSP app.

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