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McGill rescinds fee for Mental Health Services

On Thursday, Ollivier Dyens, Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), announced that McGill has removed its one-time $20 registration fee for students using McGill’s Mental Health Services. Students who have already paid the fee at the beginning of September will be reimbursed.

Dyens and Executive Director of Student Services Jana Luker cited the growing importance of Mental Health Services as the reason for rescinding the fee. The statement released last Friday assured that eliminating the fee would not result in a reduction of services.

“Given the pressing and growing need for these services, we will take steps to reallocate resources within Student Life and Learning and will try to improve the service, even without the fee,” Dyens wrote in the statement.

Initially, the fee was implemented in order to keep up with the demand for mental health services. This has been outpacing enrolment rates, meaning that costs for mental health services are increasing. The fees would be used exclusively to pay for staff and services offered to students.

The $100 fee for students seeking help for eating disorders, which was implemented at the same time as the Mental Health Services registration fee, has also been rescinded.

On Oct. 11, the office of Student Life and Learning  (SLL) will meet to discuss how to compensate for the fee by reallocating funds from SLL and Student Services. Providing support for Mental Health Services has been pinned as one of the office’s main priorities this year.

Luker outlined a number of plans to increase the efficiency of Mental Health Services. One possibility is reducing the maximum number of sessions that a student can attend with a Mental Health Services therapist. The maximum number is currently 16.

Rather than completing all the sessions with a Mental Health Services therapist, Luker said students would be referred to therapists in the community, reducing pressure on McGill therapists and student services.

“We’re looking at the preventative, the proactive things, so people can be seen before they get to a more acute state,” Luker said.

This could also include the creation of programs such as peer-to-peer sessions, support groups, and even online programs.

“Maybe we’ll start to do Skype intake,” Luker said. “We’ve got this online program—we got a big grant from Bell to do some sort of pre-therapy triage. If we can do some [therapy] in a group, then maybe we can reduce the need for one-on-one.”

Luker also noted that wait times are currently significant. Typically, students must wait two weeks to see a therapist, and up to six weeks during exam periods.

According to Robert Franck, director of Mental Health Services, the office’s main goal this year is to reduce waiting times so that students can access therapy sessions more quickly. Franck said one in five McGill students sought mental health services last year.

“Our goal for this year is to ensure that no student is waiting more than two weeks to obtain therapy sessions,” Franck said. “Our focus is to hire new therapists for ongoing sessions, and not counsellors for initial consultations.”

Over the next few months, there will be several events being hosted at McGill focusing on student mental health. On Oct. 5, the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) will be hosting its first-ever student-run conference on mental health to address important issues such as support, advocacy, and self-care. On Nov. 12, there will be a joint meeting  between the  Board of Governors and the Senate with the purpose of discussing the issue of student mental health.

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