Bell’s donation to post-secondary institutions ahead of Bell Let’s Talk Day fails to address existing concerns

Students have faced mental health challenges long before the pandemic began

Every year telecom giant Bell hosts an annual event encouraging Canadians to talk about mental health called Bell Let’s Talk Day.

Canadians often find themselves participating through one of the company’s many social media initiatives, asking for a tweet or filter on Instagram to be shared in order for a small amount to be donated towards a cause concerning mental health.

Ahead of the annual event on January 26th, the company has announced it’s donating $1 million towards mental health programs in 16 post-secondary institutions across the country.

The University of New Brunswick, University of Montreal, and Centennial College are just some of the institutions receiving the funds.

In a press release about the announcement, the company addresses the impact the spread of the novel coronavirus has on students. It cites a survey from the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, which found the pandemic worsened presenting mental health challenges in 78 percent of students.

But what it has painfully failed to acknowledge is post-secondary students suffered from mental health challenges long before the pandemic, and institutions rarely did anything to address this.

Included in the press release is a quote from Janine Robb, the executive director of health and wellness at the University of Toronto.

Robb praises Bell for funding programs, which is ironic given the university was the subject of students protesting the lack of mental health services a couple of years ago.

In March 2019, students held a silent protest outside the office of the president of the university. Many held up signs that depicted the university’s inability to hear student input on programs addressing mental health.

Suicide among students here, like at other institutions, is unfortunately common. Between 2018 and 2019, four students died by suicide. The latest student to have lost their life was just over a year ago in November 2020.

Many have argued the university has failed to provide enough resources to accommodate the large cohort of students, leading to long waitlists the university won’t disclose.

Bell’s press release states the funds will be used to create new programs that fall in line with the National Standard for Mental Health and Well-Being for Post-Secondary Students.

While funds addressing the ongoing issues in post-secondary students is a step in the right direction, it mostly seems to add to the ongoing conversation on mental health without addressing the need for more resources.

The concept relates back to the issues seen at UofT. While programs do exist, and more will be created through the funding, will there be enough resources to provide all students with the help they need in a timely manner?

Image credit: Bell Let’s Talk

Source: Bell Let’s Talk