FCAD mental health pilot program faces delay

A hand holding an FCAD mug

FCAD is pioneering a faculty specific mental health pilot program rolling out this year. (Kevin John Siazon)

A lack of staff is preventing one of the Faculty of Communication and Design’s (FCAD) mental health pilot programs from rolling out as scheduled.

The programs, piloted by FCAD, were announced last spring. They are focused on professional support for faculty, directing students to available mental health supports on campus and creating connections between peers.

The peer-connecting program, which pairs first-year students with upper-year mentors, will not launch as planned next month according to John Austin, Ryerson’s executive director of student affairs. Austin said that one of the two staff members originally leading the program is no longer at Ryerson and the other is on maternity leave.

Austin said he hopes students will step in so that the program can launch. “There are a lot of keen student leaders in (the Ryerson Communication and Design Society) who could hopefully help us invigorate that pilot,” said Austin.

Mental health is a growing concern on campuses across Ontario. On Monday, the Ontario University and College Health Association released a report showing an increase in depression, anxiety and suicide attempts among university and college students.

Austin said he hopes these programs can provide the support that students need. “We’re trying to get to a place where mental health support, mental well-being support, isn’t just the job of the counselling centre,” Austin said.

“It’s an overwhelming job,” he added.

Wait-times for counselling at the Centre for Student Development and Counselling Support are often lengthy — historically students have waited as long as three months for a followup appointment after their initial triage. The FCAD pilots will not offer additional counselling.

Ultimately, Austin said he hopes that FCAD’s pilot programs will spark other faculties to follow suit.

“Our dream for all three of these or whatever else emerges from these pilots is that we find something that we can duplicate across campus, across the different faculties.”

Austin said the other two programs will launch before the end of October.

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