Concordia arts and science students are calling on the Legault government to fund free, universally-accessible mental health care services instead of re-opening campuses. Quebec Minister of Higher Education Danielle McCann announced that starting on February 8, universities and cégeps could run in-person classes at 50% capacity. The Quebec government justified the move with claims that it will improve students’ mental health.
“A PARTIAL RETURN TO CLASS NOW PUTS ALL OF US AT RISK,” SAYS CARMEN MILNE, COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR FOR THE ARTS AND SCIENCE FEDERATION OF ASSOCIATIONS (ASFA). “STUDENTS WANT TO GET OUT OF QUARANTINE AS MUCH AS EVERYBODY ELSE, BUT LIFTING SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES TOO EARLY WILL INEVITABLY MEAN MORE LOCKDOWN MEASURES LATER, AND FOR LONGER.”
Concordia’s mental health services were already in demand beyond their capacity before the pandemic started, while therapy outside Concordia is prohibitively expensive for many students. Limited student health insurance coverage gets used up quickly, leaving students with chronic conditions and the difficult choice of steep medical bills or going untreated.
“During the fall semester, ASFA and the Concordia Student Union held town halls where students expressed the many reasons they’re overwhelmed,” says Hamza Muhammad, ASFA Executive Coordinator. “Students have repeatedly told us that they need more teaching assistants, expanded access to mental health services, and lower tuition fees. A risky early return to classes won’t give them anything but COVID.”
“If Premier Legault and Minister McCann wish to support student’s mental health, they need to put their money where their mouth is,” says Milne. “Let’s talk about funding mental health care as an essential part of our public health care system and making it free and accessible to all Quebecers.”