Reports of serious psychiatric issues such as schizophrenia and psychosis have more than tripled on campus, according to a new five-year study. Lead researcher and associate professor Sharon Cairns collected evaluation reports on over 5,000 students that were counseled at the University of Calgary Wellness Centre.
Students' primary concerns were relationships, followed by stress and depression. Academic and career anxiety are drawing less visits. The reasons for the changes is unclear.
"That's the million dollar question," said Sander Deeth, a graduate student that assisted during the study.
Deeth explained the increase found in the report might not stem solely from students with more severe issues, rather students may be more willing to come in and talk about problems or therapists have become more aware of what to look for.
"Stress is the source of all issues that are here," said U of C Wellness Centre director Debbie Bruckner. "It has a lot to do with the complexities in the world we live in."
Bruckner thinks there is a bright side in that students are better able to address those issues.
Fourth-year student Sarah Hughes said she visited the centre last year when she wasn't sure about her major.
"I wasn't happy in nursing and talking to the counsellor helped me sort things out," said Hughes. "I'm now in my first year of anthropology but I like it a lot more."
The centre offers students a number of health services in addition to counsellors such as chiropractors, massage therapists and nutritionists. Bruckner said having different specialists in one location makes the centre more efficient.
"You can look at student issues better through collaboration because of consultation opportunities," said Bruckner.
She hopes students who shy away from counsellors take advantage of the other resources when they have problems. Students can access the centre's online wellness guide to view a selection of free workshops for physical and emotional health.
Bruckner also insisted that students should not hesitate accessing the services if they've opted out of Students' Union health benefits.
According to Bruckner, one of the most stressful times for students is around mid-terms because flu season coincides with deadlines. To get prepared, students can attend classes on time-management and study skills or get involved on campus.
"A student that is more engaged is more successful," said Bruckner. Doing something helps connect them to the university experience. "Ask for help early because there's lots around."