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UW addresses student mental health following first campus suicide of 2018

Last Updated Mar 7, 2018 at 8:22 am EDT

Courtesy of University of Waterloo.

The president of the University of Waterloo says the school community is mourning the loss of a student who tragically died by suicide on Monday.

Feridun Hamdullahpur says we need to talk about what happened and advance the campus conversation about mental health. But an advocacy group that’s issued a rallying call for a campus-wide walkout hopes to galvanized the university into action.

Associate vice-president of communications Nick Manning says over the last year, UW has been on a fact finding mission on how life can be improved for students.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Hamdullahpur said: “We need to turn talk into action to make sure we are doing everything in our power to remove stigma and connect people with the help they need.”

A report from the mental health advisory committee, commissioned by Hamdullahpur, will be released next week. Manning says they will engage with students and gather their feedback.

“There’s always going to be more that we can do,” Manning says. “No single report can completely change the landscape of mental health … There are certain to be things that come from the report that will make tangible difference for our students.”

At the same time, a group of students who say they’re frustrated over the loss of another young life, will march in silence to Counselling Services on Thursday morning.

“One of the biggest things that we’d like to see is moving past these acknowledgements that loss has occurred, and thinking about how we are all implicated in the loss of student life,” says Kai Butterfield, an organizer with Waterloo Walkout for Mental Health.

She says 22 counselors for over 36,000 students is simply not enough, but a good place to start is equipping Counselling Services with more funding and supports.

“Even though there are supports that exist on campus right now, the death of students on our campus … indicates to us that it is not enough,” Butterfield says, “and that there is something deeply embedded in the culture in our university that is leading to this destruction.”

UW’s statement also includes the contact information for a number of counselling services at the school and around Waterloo Region:

Counselling Services — 519-888-4567 ext. 32655

Health Services — Student Medical Clinic — 519-888-4096

Grand River Hospital — 519-749-4300

St. Mary’s Hospital — 519-744-3311

Good2Talk — 1-866-925-5454

Here 24/7 — 1-844-437-3247

Crisis Services Canada — 1-833-456-4566 or by texting 45645

Kitchener-Waterloo Sexual Assault Support Centre — 519-741-8633