University is a time of transition and transformation, when students are faced with all-new levels of personal, financial and academic pressures.
“The goal of these programs is to help students rebound, so they have the motivation to go and seek help.”
— Cecile Silzer, donor who supports student mental health
At the University of Alberta — like at most North American universities — nearly 87 per cent of students report feeling overwhelmed by the everyday pressures of university life. More than half experience hopelessness and anxiety as a result. And almost nine per cent — more than 3,000 students — are so overwhelmed that they seriously consider suicide.
Good mental health means having the resilience to bounce back after stressful times — in university and beyond. UAlberta offers many services and programs — from counselling to recreation — to help students cope with setbacks.
You Shouldn’t Come to University to Get Unhealthy
Paisly Symenuk’s (pictured above left) first year wasn’t supposed to be like this.
The bright, articulate student came to the University of Alberta from high school with everything going for her: straight A’s, a supportive family who lived in Edmonton and a passion for nursing — her chosen program.
But the transition to university life was challenging for Symenuk: separation from friends, navigating a sprawling campus, a workload she found daunting and high-stakes exams.
“I really felt like I didn’t have a place here. That I wasn't smart enough and that I really probably shouldn't continue. That maybe it was just not for me,” Symenuk said.
Symenuk soldiered on by hitting the books, cutting out social activities and pulling all-nighters. But her grades still suffered and she spiralled quickly into a slump.
Research shows that Symenuk is not alone. Like their peers at other North American universities, many U of A students say they have trouble coping.
Symenuk got the support she needed and four years on, she says she’s healthier than ever. She’s also giving back by volunteering with the Community Social Work Team and with Unitea, a program that fosters peer-to-peer conversations over tea. While working towards her nursing degree, Symenuk is researching mental health, an issue she believes should be the biggest priority for universities.
"You shouldn't come here and get unhealthy. That's not the point of university. Everyone should have a flourishing experience here."
The Impact of Your Donations
Your donation will help the university expand successful mental health programs, pilot some new ones and train more community members to listen and help. Donations to the student mental health fund support services that help students directly from making smart choices about alcohol and drugs, to exercise breaks and visits with pets — as well as training the community to identify students in distress.
How to Help
It takes a minimum of $1 million a year to sustain these vital services — and more to expand their impact. Philanthropy helps to ensure that all UAlberta students get the support they need to succeed, lead and contribute to a healthy society.
Together we can help students handle the challenges of university life. No one needs to feel hopeless and alone.