Students scramble to find other resources for help to cope with sudden changes
Aleena said she never felt the need to register with the Centre for Student Development and Counselling (CSDC) because she typically copes with anxiety and stress on her own.
But when Ryerson made the decision to transition to online-only course delivery, Aleena said she felt herself spiralling. With practicum classes being up in the air, extracurriculars crashing and her job on the line, she didn’t know what to do or who to go to for help.
As of March 18, the CSDC announced it has stopped accepting new cases temporarily, as the school transitions to essential services and a virtual structure.
In a statement to the Ryersonian, university spokesperson Lindsey Craig said, “[CSDC] services remain available to students who are on their current caseload, and will be providing new appointments over the telephone in a limited capacity with a small number of counsellors onsite.”
Craig also confirmed that the Ryerson Medical Centre remains open, with physicians onsite to provide support for any new mental health and well-being concerns. The centre will also be moving to a virtual support system for appointments and the community will be kept informed of any updates to service delivery.
First-year student Shaylee said she had to find help using a peer-support phone line and was initially upset when she found out the centre had closed and was no longer accepting patients.
Shaylee was also one of the students who needed to pack and move back home amid all the changes after Ryerson announced that residences would be closing on March 23.
While she was initially upset that the school would “turn its back” on students, Shaylee said she understood why it happened after unsuccessfully trying to set up appointments at other locations.
“I understand that very few places are still accepting physical appointments so it makes sense. It’s just … no one saw this coming. I couldn’t have done anything to prepare ahead of time.”
According to the CSDC’s website, it has physically closed due to COVID-19. In response to the outbreak it has prioritized social distancing and student and staff well-being.
While the medical centre is open to provide support to students, Aleena said she wishes she could still access counselling support because she did not feel her situation was “medical in nature.”
“I don’t think I require medical help like some other students might…I also just wouldn’t prefer a medic. (sic) I haven’t had great experiences with them in the past.” But for Aleena that is only part of her concern.
“It makes no sense to me that I’m told to go to the medical centre or a walk-in clinic or hospital instead of a counselling centre because those locations will likely be more crowded and people there might actually have [COVID-19] symptoms,” she said.
Aleena said she spent a few days frantically trying to resolve things with friends before thinking to access the centre, which had closed by then.
Like both Aleena and Shaylee, Tyler Griffin was affected by the counselling centre closure.
Griffin, a third-year journalism student, said after months of being on a waitlist, his group counselling sessions were cancelled after only one meeting. He had also waited for months to get an in-person appointment at the medical centre, but due to the transition to virtual meetings, he was unable to get the documentation he needed for accomodation.
To access accommodations from Student Learning Support, a student requires documentation from their medical practitioner.
“I think this situation has proven how wholly unequipped Ryerson is when it comes to supporting and meeting the needs of students struggling with mental illness,” he said, explaining that Ryerson should have taken a more compassionate and empathetic response in light of everything happening.
Griffin also said that the move to online learning has disproportionately affected students dealing with rent payments, financial and job insecurity as well as worrying about their mental health and the health of their families. “No one is performing at their full capacity right now,” he said.
“I understand it, I know it’s the right choice but I didn’t know what to do and would have appreciated consistent support…I know remote help is available but it’s hard to be OK,” said Aleena.
Aleena said she has since reached out to a helpline and remote counselling service and is doing better.
Along with the Ryerson Medical Centre, the CSDC is recommending the following resources to students:
To speak with a trained counsellor by phone at any time, please call the Good2Talk 24/7 line for post-secondary students at 1-866-925-5454.
If you are experiencing an emotional crisis and need immediate assistance, please contact the Gerstein Centre 24/7 Distress Line at 416-929-5200.There is also the Big White Wall, an online peer-to-peer support community for mental health. Connect with a licensed therapist for mental health help online through Maple. Talk with a licensed, professional therapist online through BetterHelp or your family doctor/GP or a local hospital — in the case of an emergency mental health crisis.
Call 911 if you are experiencing an emergency.
* Aleena and Shaylee requested that their identities remain anonymous.