Mental health issue at OC

Okanagan College needs to do a better job of providing mental health services to its students.

Student Union internal director Nancy deMelo spoke before the college's board of directors Tuesday, saying mental health needs must be met.

She said the BC Post Secondary School Counsellors Association standard is for one counsellor on staff for every 550 students. While that threshold is being met at campuses outside Kelowna, in Kelowna, it's one for every 3,670 a students.

That's really not good," said deMelo.

"That really needs to be improved. They need to put a high priority on this."

She adds in the event of an emergency, there is only one counsellor spot available each week. That spot, she says goes quickly.

"There can be up to a three-week wait, which is unacceptable if you are having an emergency, or need ongoing care."

DeMelo says stresses affecting students can impact their mental, physical and financial health. These are caused by the increase in tuition costs, textbook costs which are out of control and housing security.

"To combat these increased living expenses, tuition expenses and textbook expenses, students are having to work more.

"Some students are even having to drop out of school and attend school part-time, and work full-time because they have no other option."

She asked the college to increase the number of counsellors at the Kelowna campus from the current 1.6 to four by 2020. That could be aided by the provincial Ministry of Advanced Education, which is looking at funding mental health programs at post secondary institutions.

DeMelo said the board of directors appeared to be receptive to the plight of students.

"There were a lot of nods around the table as we were presenting," she said.

"The president said they are looking to make changes, so hopefully, we'll see some changes enacted before I graduate, which is soon."

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