Former UMSU mental health week lengthened due to COVID-19

Community organization, UMSU facing difficulties in increased mental health services demand

This week, UMSU continues its mental health month with a workshop entitled Spiritual Wellness for Future Educators, hosted by Elder-in-Residence Wanda Joy Murdock. They are also raising awareness around student recreation over social media.

Next week will feature a virtual Jack Talk by on mental health delivered “by young people, to young people,” according to the organization’s website, as well as informational posts on social media about boundaries, COVID-19 and media. UMSU is also holding a social media resource sharing contest.

The first week of the month featured UMSU highlighting available resources for undergraduate students on social media. The second week highlighted the intersectionality of factors which contribute to mental health issues.


Mental health issues worsening amid pandemic

“Students will have noticed we moved from a mental health week all the way to a mental health month this year,” said UMSU president Jelynn Dela Cruz.

Dela Cruz explained the expansion from a mental health week to a full mental health month was driven partly by the UMSU annual member survey results.

The survey indicated 57 per cent of respondents had experienced worsening mental health issues due to the emergence of COVID-19 and the resulting socio-economic fallout.

The survey results are in line with what Eileen McDonald, women’s programming co-ordinator for the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba (MDAM), has seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the high rate of reported mental illness “is not surprising at all.”

“I think there’s a huge increase in isolation, anxiety and depression due to COVID-19,” she said.

McDonald pointed out there has been “an increase in demand” for mental health services at MDAM. Due to further restrictions on the number of people who can gather indoors, services have moved online.

According to Dela Cruz, she sees a similar increase in demand for mental health services on campus.

“Everyone wants one-on-one counselling […] however, there’s not enough counsellors to sustain that in the long run,” she said, noting UMSU has begun lobbying the university administration to put more funding into the Student Counselling Centre on campus to meet the “exponential influx in demand.”

Further, in the Oct. 8 board report from UMSU vice-president student life Savannah Szocs, Szocs indicated a sizeable influx in hardship fund applications from students.

“UMSU’s got a lot of work to do,” said Dela Cruz.

“You never know who may need the resources the most. Saving one life also means saving the entire community.”