Content warning: Mentions of suicidal thoughts.
Approximately 20 McGill students protested outside of the Brown Student Services Building for accessible healthcare on Nov. 12, the day of a planned open house of the Student Wellness Hub. The open house was postponed the day before due to weather.
The demonstration, organized by the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) University Affairs and the Association of Graduate Students Employed at McGill (AGSEM), highlighted barriers that students face while seeking healthcare at the Student Wellness Hub.
SSMU Vice-President (VP) University Affairs Madeline Wilson delivered a speech demanding shorter wait times for services, more affordable student health plans, and a better complaint system for students.
“The [current] international student health plan is the most expensive […] plan in all of Canada, and that’s not okay,” Wilson said. “One of the results of transferring long term counselling care out of the Hub means [that] students have to pay upfront [to third party care providers].”
AGSEM member Melissa Marquette condemned the rollback of McGill’s Eating Disorder Program, which was abruptly canceled two years ago, and the absence of long-term counselling services.
“We want to actively ensure that the Brown Building is always physically accessible,” Marquette said. “We want long-term clinical mental health care. Student-run peer support is a Band-Aid. It is not healthcare. We want to bring back the Eating Disorder Program, which was shut down with no warning.”
McGill launched the Student Wellness Hub this year after a $14 million combined investment from McGill and the Rossy Foundation, which aimed to improve health services to students by adding Local Wellness Advisors and merging Psychiatric and Counselling Services to the clinic.
AGSEM Mobilization Officer Rine Vieth claimed that the administration did not deliver that vision, condemning the lack of investment into student well-being at the institutional level.
“It’s a big shiny façade that has a lot of cracks,” Vieth said. “[Administrators] here seem more into their own careers than […] supporting students or building a community together. [It’s] infuriating.”
Former SSMU Mental Health Commissioner Bee Khaleeli shared the upsetting treatment that they experienced from a doctor at McGill.
“My clinician here at McGill didn’t inform me of [the] diagnoses [I received when I was hospitalized],” Khaleeli said. “He put me on medication that made me flip between mania and immobilizing depression. I told him early on that it wasn’t working, and he raised my dose […] I told him that I was suicidal and I still have the notes from the appointment [….] He [wrote] that I [was] giggly.”
SSMU Community Affairs Commissioner Claire Grenier said that the Hub rarely seemed to coordinate its services well.
“They call it the ‘one-stop shop,’” Grenier said. “Yet no one is working together. It is so disconnected. I [access] three different parts of the supposed Wellness Hub. None of them are talking to each other, and I’m responsible for playing catch up between all of them to make services and my life easier.”
Graduate student Lindsey Franks claimed that her appointment for Tuesday was canceled for the Open House, despite the postponement.
“I asked why since the event got moved, and I was told that the Hub was still closed to appointments regardless,” Franks wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune.
At the protest, Franks shared her frustration in trying to access services at the Hub.
“[It’s] been the number one biggest cause of stress for me this semester,” Franks said. “I’m also American, and I know everyone shits on the American healthcare and insurance system […] I got better healthcare in the US than I’m getting here. And that’s saying something.”