Collaboration launches after-hours crisis counselling for Western University students

Western students experiencing mental health crisis will have access to a confidential walk-in clinic on campus three evenings a week as part of a “game-changing” program funded through the London Community Foundation.

The project is a collaboration among Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Middlesex and Western University (Student Health Services, University Students’ Council and the Society of Graduate Students), King’s University College and Fanshawe College. It is believed to be the first collaboration of its kind in the province.

“This recognizes the dire need some students have, particularly during high-stress times such as exams and end of semester,” said Cynthia Gibney, director of Western’s Student Health Services.

“Mental health issues among young people have become a real problem, not just at Western but at post-secondary institutions across Canada, and we need to provide supports that make sense for them during tumultuous times,” Gibney said.

University Students’ Council sought the partnership after recognizing the value of services offered at the Walk-in Crisis Centre operated by CMHA Middlesex, said Mac McIntosh, student programs officer at USC. That crisis clinic on Huron Street has become a lifesaver to Londoners in distress and, at the same time, has reduced pressure on hospital emergency departments for crisis care.

“We are absolutely thrilled that the London Community Foundation is funding this project,” McIntosh said. “Based on our discussions with other student groups, post-secondary institutions and mental-health agencies, we believe this is a ‘first’ in Ontario.  Maybe we’re the trailblazers and this will take off in other cities as well.”

Staffed by CMHA crisis counsellors with peer-support volunteers in the reception area, the satellite clinic is free to undergraduate and graduate students. It will operate Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings from Nov. 21 to Dec. 14, and then resume next semester. Satellite clinics will also operate at affiliate King’s University College and at Fanshawe College.

The London Community Foundation has committed a three-year grant of $236,000 as part of its Community Vitality Grants that support lasting, collaborative transformation.

“Too many young people are falling through the cracks in our mental health care system. We are proud to support this initiative that will help support early intervention and help bridge the gap so that students can receive the care they need, when they need it,” said Martha Powell, President and CEO of the London Community Foundation.

The drop-in clinic will use existing space at Student Health Services in Room 11 of the University Community Centre. CMHA counsellors will help students with problem-solving and coping strategies and, where appropriate, make referrals to additional or ongoing supports both on-campus and off-campus.

Western offers a variety of health services during office hours and no one in crisis is ever turned away, Gibney said. She said CMHA funded the first round of a pilot project last year and Western funded a second pilot during spring exams this year. During each session, about 70 people came to the clinics for after-hours crisis care.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Debora Van Brenk, Media Relations Officer, Western University, 519-661-2111 x85165, or on mobile at 519-318-0657 and; and Jana Cernavskis, Communications Officer, University Students’ Council. 519-661-2111 x82618,

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