Survey examines how to expand campus mental health services

For May’s mental health awareness week, a UBC-founded mental health organization, Walkalong, surveyed students to find out what they wanted from the university’s mental health services.

Walkalong, which describes itself as dedicated to young Canadians' wellness through empowerment, posted a call for UBC students to take part in a research survey asking what they wanted from possible expansion of mental health services.

There is a pressing need for greater access to mental health experts given the demand for them, according to psychiatry professor and the survey's principle director Michael Krausz. The survey considered how best to expand resources given that current services aren't meeting the demand.

“[With] long waiting times and very limited resources we see an urgent need to build capacity,” said Krausz.

According to the most recent AMS academic experience survey, only 36 per cent of UBC students were satisfied with their experience at UBC counselling services while 35 per cent said they weren’t.

John Ward, project manager for the online survey, would not comment on the findings, saying that releasing preliminary results may contaminate them.

However, mental health services may expand to include a virtual clinic, according to Krausz. A virtual clinic would be a web-based platform that gives students the chance to connect with mental health experts via video conference, email or chatrooms.

"The idea is to provide access to any kind of mental health services and to add to the existing services,” said Krausz. “We hope that a virtual clinic component, and other components can help to build capacity to make it easier for students to access expertise.”

Web-based mental health services already exist elsewhere, both in Canada and internationally. Krausz calls the online services “much appreciated” by users and says there is a lot of positive feedback for the platform.

According to Krausz, users enjoy the virtual clinic because it offers an easy means of access to mental health experts while also giving users a sense of being in charge of their experience, as well as offering more opportunities for information on mental health and treatment options.