More Ryerson mental health initiatives approved

By Emily Westover

A second round of project approvals has been announced for the $27 million in funding for campus mental health services that was given by the province last March, and two of the new projects revolve around Ryerson.

One of the Ryerson projects, University Virtual Ward, will help ease suicidal and hospitalized students’ transition from hospital to school. The project, which brings together partners from University of Toronto, York University, and Women’s College Hospital, will receive $440,000 in funding over two years.

“Patients in a hospital have somebody to help with medication, somebody to help with therapy, and a nurse checking in on them” said Dr. Su-Ting Teo, who is leading the project. “For many people, as soon as they’re discharged, they no longer have access to these services and sometimes they fall through the cracks.”

Teo and her team are putting the funds towards hiring psychiatrists, social workers and mental health nurses to connect students to both school and medical resources.

Speaking Your Language is another Ryerson-approved project, led by Ian Crookshank, director of student community life. The project, which is partnered with the University of Toronto and OCAD University, was granted just over $281,000 over two years and focuses on mental health support for international students.

Crookshank plans to spend the funds on hiring a project manager, creating an awareness campaign, and potentially bringing in a counsellor to provide services in languages not already provided.

“People from different backgrounds and cultures have a different understanding of mental health and we don’t necessarily offer the level of support needed” said Crookshank. “Students may need support in another language to fully explain or articulate what it is they’re going through.”

The most recent injection of cash from the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) is part of their Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. It puts the total funding Ryerson has received for such projects at over $1 million in 2013.

This comes as the Centre for Student Development and Counselling saw a 200 per cent increase in demand for appointments in recent years.

A board of student representatives, school faculties and professionals in the mental health field review all proposals submitted to the MTCU.

“The board looks for original, innovative ideas that don’t duplicate services that already exist” said Emily Hedges, press secretary at the MTCU.

A third Ryerson project, also partnered with OCAD University, puts health and wellness directors at Ryerson and OCAD together to work on creating a strategy for training mental health educators at each university.

That project was granted just over $352,000 from the MTCU’s first round of proposals in March 2013. The money was first spent on hiring Andrea Yip as project co-ordinator.

“When it comes to developing a mental health strategy at both schools, we’ve seen a lot of overlap in priorities. When we see those overlaps, that’s where we put our resources” said Yip.

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