You are having suicidal thoughts. You look up Dal counseling services and see that they offer same-day Brief Initial Counseling services. You call at 9 a.m. when the phones open to seek help. They tell you they’ve already been fully booked for today…How is that possible? You’re the first caller. So the next day you call back, 9 a.m., first caller, and are told the same thing. Strange. You call again for a third day at 9 a.m. and they tell you they’ll book you for the next available appointment. A moment of hope.
Except it’s not for two weeks.
When you finally get in to see a councilor you see them for 30 minutes, you feel hopeful, maybe this therapy thing will work for you. When the appointment is over they say “We’ll call you when we have a real appointment available, usually 10-12 weeks.”
This was my experience in the middle of October. Unfortunately 10-12 weeks brought me to Christmas. I am supposed to go a whole semester without help? They suggest I go see one of the peer support workers. A fellow student can’t help me the way I need to be helped. They tell me to “talk to a friend.” I’ve already tried. I need a professional, but apparently that’s way too hard to come by.
Unfortunately my story is not unique and unfortunately this wait time is not exclusive to Dal.
You will find this problem regardless of where you go, but that doesn’t make it okay. Many students withdraw from school while waiting for their counseling services appointment. Many students are forced to seek outside services to keep themselves afloat.
Dalhousie prides itself in having a great counseling service centre. But in all honesty, that is not the case.
They claim to set one urgent appointment time each day for a student who requires a quick response. This appointment ends up booked at 9 a.m. or even pre-booked for a student who already goes to counseling services. As someone who has been to many different mental health centres and clinics, Dal falls below par.
For a school that prides itself in taking care of its students they are allowing so many students to fall between the cracks. Dalhousie has nearly 20,000 students and only eight counseling staff.
Trying to become a new client at Dalhousie Counseling Services is far too hard to be acceptable. From the students I have talked to, the wait time from their first call to counseling services to their first real appointment varies from 10 weeks to 23 weeks. That’s nearly six months.
I challenge Dalhousie to fix this problem. Stop letting your students fall between the cracks. Stop letting your students suffer in silence. For a school that claims to be so supportive of mental illness, from things like the #MyDefinition campaign, the PROsocial Project and multiple Mental Health Awareness weeks, you sure aren’t taking care of your mentally ill students.