BY MAX WELLS
Many Ontario college students say their mental health has been severely impacted by the college strike. The strike, which affected all 24 Ontario colleges, left half a million students anxious about the fate of their education and their future.
“My anxiety from the strike had been so prolonged, my depression had taken a toll on me where I wasn’t sleeping at night or I would sleep all day,” says Chantel Valliere, a Public Relations student at Conestoga College. “At the end of week four, I came to the conclusion that all I wanted was a schedule back, and I wanted to learn.”
Valliere also said that she wished the college system would have done a better job communicating with students. “We would see different stories online about what was happening but we wouldn’t know the truth. We were all nervous about what was going to happen when we got back, or if we would even get the chance to go back this semester.”
The strike affected 12,000 faculty, including mental health professionals, which left students cut off from reaching their counsellors. Sheridan College’s statement regarding the situation read: “Counselling appointments have been cancelled up until Nov. 10. Once the strike is over, we will reschedule cancelled appointments. Students who have immediate questions or require support can visit The Centre for Student Success.” The college also provided a link to local hotlines for students struggling with their mental health to contact.
“Of course once the strike was announced, my first thoughts were when I would be back and how the current assignments would be handled. However, I do use the school’s counselling services and I began to panic when I realized I would not have access to my counsellor,” says Jessica Prior, Human Resources student at Sheridan College. “I felt very vulnerable. It took me a long time to be able to open up to a professional, and that progress was suddenly cut short.”
With classes back in session, students must adapt to new assignment deadlines, course schedules, and a condensed winter break. However, the colleges remain committed to providing a reading week in the second semester.
Prior says she isn’t happy with the new schedule, but is hopeful things will get better. “It’s disappointing that we won’t be able to spend as much time with our families at Christmas, but after these five weeks I’m ready to focus on my education.”