A focus on mental health is needed for post-pandemic life

The return to in-person classes is an opportunity to improve campus life

Mental health support should not be behind so much red tape. PHOTO: Azat Bayandin / The Peak

By: Theresa-Anne Clarke Harter, Peak Associate

For those with certain mental health concerns, a return to in-person learning may mean heightened anxiety, social challenges, and more. Others may feel relieved at the thought of returning to school, as remote learning’s lack of designated learning spaces, proper equipment, and structure present unique challenges. But with this return, SFU needs to ensure they accommodate all students and offer proper mental health support. 

We will inevitably see a rise in mental health struggles among students as we return to in-person learning. In recent years, SFU has added the option of drop-in Health & Counselling advising sessions where students can be referred to supports that would best suit their needs. This service can be initially accessed almost immediately. Unfortunately, due to lengthy waitlists, it can be difficult to get help after your first session. 

During the pandemic, professors were often more understanding about late assignments and the struggles that come with learning online. This attitude needs to translate to SFU’s return to campus, as students will continue to have personal struggles that are just as valid. Students should be able to access help without rehashing trauma or sharing personal events with a near stranger. The inflexibility of academia doesn’t reflect real human needs. In fact, it often lacks empathy.

Students will undoubtedly need more support and understanding. We have yet to see the repercussions this shared trauma will have on ourselves and our communities. To engage healthily with our learning environment, SFU must improve their mental health supports. Investing more in these health supports could involve increasing funding for the Centre for Accessible Learning, Health & Counselling, and campus groups that advocate for marginalized students.

Another learning barrier I would like to see dismantled as we return to in-person classes is SFU’s bureaucratic application processes for accessing support. I recently had a personal experience with this while pursuing learning accommodations for my ADHD. Numerous forms — some that may require you to see a new doctor or psychiatrist just to prove a condition you’ve already been diagnosed with — can feel very invalidating. Not to mention, this presents barriers to people who experience executive dysfunction. The employees at CAL are lovely, empathetic, and helpful individuals, but it is the bureaucratic processes the institution inflicts on us that are the problem. This red tape puts up so many barriers that many students searching for help give up halfway through the process.