Commentary, Opinion

I don’t want to rent a lamp: I need to see a therapist

For most people, the decision to see a therapist doesn’t take place overnight. Often, a series of events will knock someone down until dealing with an issue alone is no longer an option. By the time that I decided to trek to the Brown building, my closest friends knew that I had been struggling for months. I had finally reached a point where I did not feel safe in my own mind and needed external support to help me deal with my sense of hopelessness.

So, when the receptionist at mental health services told me that there was a six-week wait to get an appointment, my stomach lurched. Finding the strength to reach out and ask for help does not come easily, and being denied that help can be demoralizing and, frankly, scary. Seeing the panic on my face, the receptionist reassured me that if I came by for drop-in hours I would be able to see a therapist by the end of the day. I arrived the following morning only to be told that all of the appointments were already taken. I started tearing up, but I knew that negotiation was not an option. All of the students before me needed to talk just as badly as I did, and what I was facing wasn’t a malicious plot against my mental health but a shortage of resources.

I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by caring friends. On that discouraging day, my roommate brought home two pages of contact information for local psychologists. I texted the first one on the list and immediately made a booking for the following week. The hour-long appointment cost $195.

Like every McGill student, I hear incessant complaints about our school’s mental health system. The Brown building, which houses McGill’s counselling services, bears a shameful one-and-a-half–star ranking on Google Maps. From cutting the eating disorder program to funding out-of-touch initiatives clearly designed by the neurotypical—think: Spin Bikes and fake plants—the administration does little to  hide that mental wellness falls quite low on their list of priorities. For many students, the once-every-two-week therapy offered by Mental Health Services is insufficient. As a result, students often turn to expensive sessions with independent psychologists. This option only applies to those with $50 to $240 to drop on a one-hour session. The rest of the student body finds themselves out of luck and instead has to keep it together on their own for the 14 days between their McGill counselor appointments.

After intense backlash surrounding former deputy provost student life and learning Ollivier Dyens’ self-righteous hygiène-de-vie sermon, as well as criticism about the decision to cut the eating disorder program, McGill decided to redeem itself with the announcement of its first ever Well Week. Well Week was a five-day period between Jan. 28 and Feb. 1 during which McGill hosted various mental wellness-related events, including a mason jar meal hack, workshops on bullet journaling and studying habits, and yoga classes. McGill administration has also offered students resources like light therapy lamps and miscellaneous workshops as alternative means for improving mental health, especially during the dreary winter months.

While biking and yoga may be useful supplementary tools for coping with mental health struggles, students cannot be expected to handle their issues alone and need accessible recovery programs to put them back on track. McGill continues to invest in half-hearted wellness initiatives while failing to address the needs of students struggling with genuine mental illness. Well Week is yet another misdirected strategy to pacify the growing resentment amongst students in need of greater resources. Having personally gone through the dejection of being denied mental health services, I would not want anyone to feel that same hopelessness. Students need an administration that hears their experiences and takes them seriously with a rigorous dedication to increasing affordable counselling services—not rentable lamps.

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