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Post-secondary students in Lethbridge receive government support for mental health

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WATCH: Alberta post-secondary students will have more support for mental health thanks to a grant from the government announced Wednesday. Joe Scarpelli reports – Sep 6, 2017

Students at the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College will have more access to mental health supports thanks to new provincial funding announced on Wednesday.

The Alberta government will be investing a combined $1.2 million each year for three years for mental health at the two schools.

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Laura Bryan, a political science and French student at the University of Lethbridge is battling a general anxiety disorder which started four years ago when she first started school.

“Moving away from home for the first time and not knowing who anybody was really, really difficult and I have test anxiety and social anxiety so it was really, really hard to get involved,” Bryan said.

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She went for counselling at the school to help her cope. She said it’s helped her throughout the years and she hopes others can benefit from increased resources.

“It tends to be overlooked when it’s really the most important thing and it tends to be what drives us in life,” Bryan said. “I think once we have those initiatives, it really makes life better in all aspects.”

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The university will be receiving $1 million each year, while the college will get the remaining $220,000.

Harmoni Jones, the health promotion coordinator at Lethbridge College, said in previous years the schooled relied on internal funding for mental health programs.

“This funding means that we can implement initiatives without the fear that we will not have a budget for it,” she said.

Jones said the school contracts its counseling, making the program — Shepell Counselling Services — available to students 24 hours a day. She said the college is one of 16 institutions using the service across Canada.

“We have the highest utilization rate for our student Shapell support program, but that being said, we also can say that we have an increased help-seeking behavior, which is not a bad thing either.”

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The province took into consideration a 2016 National College Health Assessment survey conducted at 10 post-secondary schools across the province which found a high rate of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

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