News / Edmonton

New provincial mental health funds to address 'heartbreaking state of affairs' at post-secondary schools

Alberta universities and colleges will get $25.8 million investment for counsellors and other support services

MacEwan University Students' Association President Stephanie Nedoshytko.

Kevin Maimann / Metro Edmonton

MacEwan University Students' Association President Stephanie Nedoshytko.

New mental health funding could help Alberta universities cut counselling wait times for students at risk of suicide, advocates say.

Announcing the provincial government’s $25.8-million investment Monday, Advanced Education Minister Marlin Schmidt cited last year’s National College Health Assessment survey of Alberta campuses that found 13 per cent had seriously contemplated suicide in the past year, and one in 50 attempted suicide.

“We cannot and will not let this heartbreaking state of affairs to continue,” Schmidt said.

The funds will roll out over three years, with $2.6 million going to Edmonton institutions annually.

MacEwan University’s Student Association President Stephanie Nedoshytko said MacEwan's $360,000 annual share will allow them to increase the amount of mental health support workers on campus.

“This means a lot to our students,” she said.

“Our wait times, just recently, have been around three weeks for students to access psychologists, counsellors or social workers on campus. And that’s a really long wait time.”

The University of Alberta Students’ Union was more critical of the announcement, however.

President Marina Banister said in a press release that while students are excited for the funding, they have concerns over the formula that did not dole out funds based on population.

The U of A will get the biggest slice of the funding, with $1 million for each of the three years – but one of the lowest per student based on its full load equivalent (FLE) enrolment numbers.

With more than 36,000 FLEs, the U of A's share works out to $27.50 per student.

“The work is not done with this announcement,” Banister said. “The minister and government must continue to work with the institutions and students over the next few years.”

Editor's note: The original version of this story said MacEwan's $360,000 and the U of A's $1 million would both be spread over three years. The story has been corrected to show the schools will actually get those funds each year, for the next three years.

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