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Canadian students feel stress, anxiety, have suicidal thoughts, survey reveals

Almost 90 per cent of students said they felt overwhelmed by what they had to do in past year.

© China Daily China Daily Infor/REUTERS

Canadian post-secondary students feel stressed, overwhelmed, lonely and some have even considered suicide in the past year, a new study released Monday suggested.

More than 30,000 students were surveyed for the report, which sheds light on mental health and other health issues faced by students at Canada's colleges and universities.

Some of the troubling findings of the report had to do with the level of stress and anxiety students feel when dealing with their academic careers.

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Almost 90 per cent of students said that they felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year, while more than 50 per cent said they felt hopeless and 63 per cent said they felt very lonely.

The report also painted a grim picture on the issue of suicide, with 9.5 per cent of students saying they had seriously considered taking their own lives in the past year, while 1.3 per cent said they had attempted suicide.

Dr. Su-Ting Teo, director of student health and wellness at Toronto's Ryerson University, said some health issues students face are often overlooked.

"What is surprising is of course the burden of mental health issues," she said in an interview. "For some of us that have done (the survey) in previous years, there is some signs of an increase in that, so that's a bit alarming."

Teo said students are struggling with many different issues.

"Some of it is health, some of it is relationships, some of it is academics and finances, but what was surprising is the large number of students (55 per cent) who are actually juggling three or more of those issues at the same time," she said.

"There is the perception still I think in the public that students have it easy ... I'm not saying that it isn't that for many students, but I don't think people recognize just how much students have to juggle these days."

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Ria Viray, a fourth-year business student at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said that it's encouraging for students to see the numbers coming out of the survey and realize that what they're feeling isn't out of the ordinary.

"It's easy to look at the negative side of it, but it's also comforting from a student's perspective knowing that you're not alone in what you're experiencing," she said.

Kandi McElary, director of wellness services at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said the survey helps colleges and universities better understand the national landscape when it comes to student health issues.

"What's really relevant to us, we've been waiting for this, is how do students at Mount Royal University (or other institutions that participated in the survey) compare to (other) Canadian students?"

The survey was conducted by the Canadian Organization of University and College Health from January to April of this year.

The group is expected to announce a national guide to a systemic approach to post-secondary student health on Wednesday.

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