Campus LifeNews

“We need to hear directly from students”: Dean of Students responds to mental health rally

With concerns around student mental health increasing, the Dean of Students is saying his office is listening to what students have to say.

On March 13, a student-led rally for mental health took place at SUBstage. At the rally, several students shared their experiences with on-campus mental health resources, with many stating that current resources are inadequate and that they hope the university is listening to their concerns.

Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos

Among the people present at the rally was Dean of Students Andre Costopoulos, who agreed with the sentiments expressed at the rally and said it’s important his office listens to what students have to say about mental health on campus.

“Mental health support is a key issue for us so the most important thing about the rally was that students were talking, so we were there to listen,” he said. “All the feedback that we get, including from events like the rally, feeds into our decision making.”

One issue that was brought up by students at the rally was being turned away by on-campus resources when they approached them for help. Costopoulos said one of the reasons mental health specialists are scarce is due to budgetary reasons. He explained that the goal is to have more generalist services spread throughout campus for prevention work while maintaining the number of specialists the university currently has.

“The idea is to do prevention work with generalist services for students early on,” he said. “If anybody who needs any kind of help is first referred to a specialist, they might not need that specialist service and the people who do might end up not having access to it.”

Costopoulos said his office is working towards making resources more accessible to students. One initiative he discussed was the ACCESS Outreach Team, which began last fall, and holds tabling sessions at various locations where students can approach the team with their mental health concerns.

“One of the biggest complaints I hear from students is, ‘I didn’t have someone to talk to,’” he said. “So we designed the ACCESS Outreach Team… specifically for that purpose, so that students have someone to talk to right away.”

Although programs such as the ACCESS Outreach Team are new, Costopoulos hopes to increase awareness of these services by engaging with student either online through forums like Reddit, or on campus through events such as orientation.

Aside from Dean of Students initiatives, Costopoulos mentioned other measures such as Unitea, where trained volunteers engage in conversation with students over a free hot beverage, have also been created to aid the discussion of mental health.

“Students were talking about coming together, we all need to come together,” he said. “Not just the students coming together, not just the administration, but everybody in the community.”

Tina Tai

Tina is the 2020-21 Magazine Editor and the 2019-20 Online Editor of The Gateway. She is a Psychology major and enjoys training her cats to give high-fives using behaviour modification methods. In her spare time she enjoys making sushi, watching murder mystery shows, and taking naps so long they may as well be sleeps.

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