It is 2017, I am in my final year of high school and the University of Toronto is my first choice on my university application. I had extended family rooting for the school and encouraging me to work hard, “It’s the number one university in Canada!” “It’s the Harvard of the North!”. Then we had the internet, begging me to choose literally any other school. “Everyone here is stressed 24/7” “You’ll spend four years with no friends and a depressed GPA”. Of course, we can’t forget the ones also applying to universities, saying “Don’t you need a high 90 to get in?” “Isn’t it impossible to have a good GPA there?”
Flash forward to 2020…I’m in my third year now at U of T and I can say I’ve seen a lot of things at this school for myself. My mentality when applying for university is that your experience is what you make of it. But as I talked about before with the pressure to be extroverted in campus life, there are certain things that propel us to have the experiences we do.
Unfortunately, mental health at U of T has continued to be a hot topic and persists as a setback for the student experience here. When I talked to my friends at different universities, it was clear that their workload, faculty expectations, campus life, differed greatly from my own experience at U of T. I almost hate to admit that when U of T students emphasize the stress they endure as students from this school and the toll it takes on their mental health, it’s not the slightest bit of an exaggeration. When the stakes are so high and the pressure weighs us down, the reminder that we are part of a prestigious university can only do so much.
This was precisely what was going through my head before I even opened the link for U of T’s new mental health website. I’ve had the privilege to access Health and Wellness resources during my years as a student. But without the help of my residence don, I can imagine the process to be a little complicated. That said, I went into this website hoping for a clear breakdown of what I needed to do if I wanted access to any resource offered at the school.
I must say I was quite impressed with the design and layout. On the first page, there was a scale describing different mental health needs and it implied to me that there was support available for anyone in any situation. I used to be someone who was afraid to go to a support service for fear that I was taking the time of someone else in an urgent situation who needed it more.
Furthermore, there was a breakdown of services and programs that can be filtered out to cater specifically to the student’s needs. Each resource provided a coherent description of their type of support and directed you to application steps if you click on one.
Health and Wellness at U of T has felt like a “call to find out more information” kind of service. But mentalhealth.utoronto.ca, I think, provides what students have been wanting for some time now. A clear idea of what’s available at this school and who it’s available for and how we can access it. “Today, I feel lonely” “Today I feel nervous”, I think U of T might be listening this time.