The provincial government announced Wednesday that work on a 24/7 mental health support system for post-secondary students is underway.

The project plans for an always-available service that includes phone, online chat, text, and email capabilities for students.

“Adjusting to a new environment, learning to balance classes with new jobs, new friendships and relationships can be challenging for students who may be living away from home for the first time, far from friends and family,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in the announcement.

“Whether mild or severe, mental-health concerns are very real among post-secondary students who have been calling for action to this important issue on- and off-campus.”

The province says that there is currently no province-wide resource available to post-secondary students, and that where there are resources students often lack after-hours access.

“It’s critical to provide young people with access to the supports they need, where and when they need them,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in the same release.

“The use of virtual technology would enable young people from all parts of the province to ask for help once and get help fast.”

By the numbers

According to the province, post-secondary students aged 15-24 are more likely to report mental illness or substance-use disorders than other age groups.

A survey conducted in 2016 by the National College Health Association found that a significant number of students experience mental-health problems and illnesses.

According to the survey, 44.4% of surveyed students reported that at some point in the previous 12 months they felt “so depressed it was difficult to function”, and 18.4% said they were being “diagnosed or treated by a professional” for anxiety.

Moreover, the survey found that 13% of the students had seriously considered suicide, and that 2.1% had attempted it.

“Government is responding to pressure from students to take action on improving mental health services,” said Noah Berson, chairperson of the Alliance of BC Students in the release.

“No one schedules a time when they need support, so it’s good that a service will be available outside of regular hours for students, regardless of where they’re studying in the province.”

Need support?

All Canadians can find advice and contact a crisis centre in your area at this link: suicideprevention.ca. Crisis centres are available throughout Canada, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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