While the stigma surrounding the topic of mental health is slowly diminishing, issues surrounding mental health support within post-secondary institutions in Ontario remain. Post-secondary institutions across Ontario offer varying levels of mental health support and treatment options for their students that range from distinctive to generic services. Yet, students are met with numerous barriers when trying to access meaningful care, from untimely support, to a misunderstanding of expectations from treatment, to a lack of empathetic solutions.
This project seeks to better support all students by addressing this question: How might we encourage mental health support focused on long-term and ongoing care?
We sought out 19 students across 9 different institutions who both did and did not access services offered at their respective schools, and held individual open-ended interviews asking questions about their experience before, during, and after accessing mental health services.
- How did they know they needed to access mental health services?
- At what point in their schooling did they discover available mental health support services?
- Why didn’t they access services available?
- Did the services help?
Each of the project team members journey mapped the steps to accessing the mental health services available at our respective institutions and compared our findings with each other. As part of this analysis, we also drew parallels to our findings from the user research interviews.
We quickly discovered how difficult it is to navigate support systems within each institution. Additionally, service frameworks often applied short-term solutions to longer-term issues. As a result, students are left to self-discover and misdiagnose issues. They’re also confused about what the process of accessing care will look like should they choose it, and who exactly care is intended for. Add to this the fact that waitlists to seek support span the length of nearly an entire semester, and you have a system that is not entirely empathetic to the experience of those accessing it.
Based on these findings, we’re developing a prototype to…stay tuned!
Elham Numan, Lydia Notten, Victoria Yue Shi, Hailen Xu