Depression, anxiety and suicide on the rise at Canadian universities

Collage of posters advertising support for mental health

Posters at the Ryerson counselling centre. (Jayna Rana)

Depression, anxiety and suicide attempts are increasing among students at Ontario colleges and universities. The rising demand for mental health services is making it hard for campuses to keep up.

The new mental health statistics were released today, in a report by the Ontario University College Health Association (OUCHA). The report analyzed responses from 25,000 students gathered this spring.  

The report includes data on anxiety, depression, suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts. All of the numbers are up from 2013.

“You’d be hard-pressed to find a campus that isn’t doing their best to support students,” said Meg Houghton, president of the OUCHA and director of Student Access, Wellness and Development at Humber College.  

Houghton said that such high demand for mental health services for students “is outstripping our capacity to support [them].

“All of these numbers are concerning because it highlights issues that we have been aware of, that we’ve [been] attempting to intervene on and support, and all the while the numbers have been increasing,” said Houghton.

According to the report, the number of students considering suicide has increased three per cent since the OUCHA’s first report in 2013. Students reporting “overwhelming anxiety” rose to 65 per cent from 57 per cent since the previous report.

Houghton said the OUCHA is calling on the government to form a strategic plan that focuses on supporting adults between 18 and 24 years old.   

At Ryerson last year, students waited as long as three months from their initial triage appointment to be seen at the Centre for Student Development and Counselling. The RSU has an ongoing plan to turn the used book room into a wellness centre to direct students to available mental health resources. In April, FCAD announced the launch of a series of new mental health pilots on campus.

Results from the report

  • 46 per cent of students felt so depressed that it was difficult to function
  • 65 per cent felt overwhelming anxiety
  • 13 per cent seriously considered suicide
  • 2.2 per cent attempted suicide
  • 11 per cent of students reported both depression and anxiety within the past year

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